Helena High students win $20K in national app contest

Money will go to school's science programs; teens get tablets
2014-02-27T06:00:00Z 2014-03-16T23:13:53Z Helena High students win $20K in national app contestBy Derek Brouwer Helena Independent Record
February 27, 2014 6:00 am  • 

Montana may be short on young programmers, but a team of Helena High computer science students has proven their ideas are world-class.

The students’ concept for a mobile 3D scanner was named a national winner in the 2014 Verizon Innovative App Challenge.

The six students, along with teacher Buffy Smith and Principal Steve Thennis, sat around a conference table Wednesday afternoon, their eyes glued to the laptop where a live feed of the announcement would come.

A cheer broke out as Helena High was the final team named, and Thennis presented the students with a plaque and banner that will hang inside the school.

“When I look at the brainpower in this room, I guess I’m not surprised,” he said.

The team’s idea was to create a phone application that takes high-quality 3D scans of everyday objects, which can then be imported by computer design software and edited.

As one of four national high school winners, the team earned a total of $20,000 for Helena High’s science programs, and each member receives a tablet computer.

The win came as a surprise to senior Mark Sargent.

“To be honest I was expecting not to,” he said.

Upon receiving the award, senior Sage Smith thanked his teacher and mother for her support.

“I don’t think we would have won this if it wasn’t for Mrs. Smith,” he said.

Mrs. Smith, who teaches the computer science class at Helena High, applauded the students who she has taught throughout their high school careers.

“I’ve taught every one since they’ve been freshmen,” she said. “This is an incredibly smart group of kids.”

Smith began incorporating mobile programming in to her class last year, hoping to prepare students for the future of the field. Doing so required many nights of homework on her part, she said.

Five of the six team members are finishing up their senior year, and each said they plan to attend Montana State University in Bozeman. Nick Burkland, Bridger Howell, Sage Smith and Joe Whitney will study — you guessed it — computer science. Mark Sargent will major in math and physics.

Junior Jake Pennington said he hopes to join them a year later to also study computer science.

In the meantime, the group will get some help from professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to put their app idea into development. If they’re able to create a functional version, the team can take a trip to Washington, D.C., to present it, according to Mrs. Smith.

As for the cash prize?

“We’re definitely going to make sure it goes to computer science,” Pennington said.

Reporter Derek Brouwer can be reached at derek.brouwer@helenair.com or 447-4081. Follow Derek on Twitter @IR_DerekBrouwer

Copyright 2016 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. DanFD
    Report Abuse
    DanFD - March 03, 2014 2:37 am
    And this is just amazing. It means that this guy can easily afford going to school, without applying for a student loan which we all know is incredibly difficult to pay off. Well, he might need some small loan, still not as huge as he might have needed. I wish we could see such news more often. It’s just due to lack of finances; so many talented kids have to refuse from going to college at all. It means chances that more children will sit down to write their essays (look for online dissertation for sale) next year reduce.

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters. If you receive an error after submitting a comment, please contact us.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps:

    1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

    2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

    3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

    4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

    5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at editor@helenair.com. This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

    6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

    7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

    8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

    9. Don't write a novel. If your comment is longer than the article you're commenting on, you might want to cut it down a bit. Lengthy comments will likely be removed.
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick