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App challenge champions out to change the world

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BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. -- Hardly a newscast goes by that Fox 4 News doesn't bring you a story about a new app for your smartphone or tablet. Well one day, perhaps very soon, we might be bringing you a story on one of those in use created by this week's Fox 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achievers. They are doing it as Missouri high school state champions of app innovation.

A lot of high level engineering and advanced computer science learning goes on in computer science teacher Kevin Clevenger's classroom at Blue Springs High School. Immersed in programs like Project Lead The Way, very bright students are preparing to be leaders in developing new hardware and software technology for all of us to use.

"Yeah, we all really want to be engineers and we all want to be innovators," said Fox 4 Young Achiever Julia Ingram. "And we just want to change the world for the better."

Changing the world for the better. It's the mantra of engineers. And six of these students focused on that as they jumped into a major national high school and middle school competition sponsored by Verizon. They had to come up with an ingenious concept for a mobile app that addresses a problem or a need in their school or community.

"Well, the basic idea of our app is to make it, in short, to get students better grades," said Fox 4 Young Achiever Tyler DeWitt.

And with their impressive concept for a tutoring scheduling app to link students and teachers, Tyler DeWitt, Julia Ingram, Aaron Darrah, Mitchell Jurich, Matt Barchak and Connor Toth won Best in State for Missouri in the high school division of the Verizon Innovative App Challenger. Teacher and team advisor Kevin Clevenger wasn't surprised.

"They're ambitious," said Clevenger. "They strive for more knowledge. They always come in and they're always trying something new. They're always, new ideas. OK. I did this. And they're actually showing me things."

As Missouri state high school champions of the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, the team advanced to regional competition last month. That's where their path to the national finals ended. But it turns out it was only a temporary roadblock for them.

"We're starting to design a basic prototype of what the app is actually going to be like," said Fox 4 Young Achiever Matt Barchak as he and the other students worked on the design at classroom computer stations.

If the team had finished as a national finalist, they would have won big grants money to actually develop their app. Now they are doing it on their own, eager to get their technology in use.

"The mobile world is exploding right now and really, that's where the money's at, that's where the future's at, is in mobile devices," says Tyler. "So if you can create an app, you've basically got a footprint in for the future."

"I think it will be really fulfilling for all of us," said Matt, "not just because now we have relevant experience that we can use in future careers but also so that, so that this app we created is being able to help students across the country. It's a really exciting idea." Ambitious, innovative problem-solvers out to change the world for the better

A team of students from El Dorado Springs near Nevada won Best In State for their app concept in the middle school division. Kansas winners are from Wichita and Hillsboro.

Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.