According to the Canadian Government, enrollment in mathematics, computer and information sciences accounted for 3.0% of total university enrolment in 2008/2009, the lowest proportion since 1992/1993. In response to this and some pressure from local Universities, TechU.me was created to inspire youth using app development.
Apps is a great place to start kids on the path to a technical future, as the devices are ubiquitous and the applications are largely practical. Gone are the days when computers were thought of as inaccessible, giant, computation machines. Now, everyone has a computer in their pocket and they’re often thinking “I wish I had an app to help me do (blank).”
Watch this video on YouTube for mobile viewing.
While the intro video states that the program will let kids create apps for their “ithings”, RIM is a close partner of the program and has done an excellent job seeding the program with PlayBooks. In fact, at IBM Ottawa, where the program is held, PlayBooks are everywhere. Granted, there’s a RIM office close by, but you definitely get the sense that Ottawa’s tech industry is behind the PlayBook, even if it’s just for personal use.
Yesterday, I had the chance to sit down with some of the TechU.me kids and listen to their app ideas. Considering these kids are from middle school (5th-8th grade), their ideas were pretty incredible. Some of the better ideas included:
- An iOS gaming platform where users make drag-and-drop games and share them with the community. You can offer your games free or sell them, in which case there is a revenue share. Can you believe a 12 year old is thinking about a revenue share community? That’s a surprising amount of insight into mobile monetization.
- A travel app called Travel Guru where your facebook data is mined in order to give travel recommendations. The app also includes elements of BlackBerry Travel, and gives you flight cancellations, currency conversations, hotel and public transportation data etc..
- A homework application that allows parents to buy lesson plans for their kids as well as give a direct link to the teachers. If a student needs help, they can ping a tutor, and the parents can review their kids’ progress. The app also has a gamification layer that gives kids points for completing homework assignments. These points can be traded with parents for allowance or privileges. It reminded me of a combination of Zeebu and Highscore House.
The above TechU.me participant presented his idea for an iOS gaming marketplace where games are made in-app and distributed for free or paid.
The kids are getting into Android development and with the Android Player for PlayBook, it would be cool to see all their apps on App World. Maybe RIM could make a special section on App World called TechU.me and provide a place where young kids could upload their apps from all over the world. I would love to check out what middle school students are developing. Kids have great app ideas because they’re not hindered by a lot of the industry standards that we have come to expect. They just do whatever comes to mind and have little regard for whether or not it conforms. It sort of reminds me of the Steve Jobs commencement speech:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”