Apps4VA 2016 - Part One of a Two Part Blog Post

Author: Brooke Bell, PMP, Director Consulting Services CIT
June 7, 2016

What factors make certain regional education systems perform better than others?

How does funding across school districts correlate with the performance of economically disadvantaged students?

Do certain disabilities propose a challenge in learning certain subjects?


These are a few of the topic areas addressed by students participating in the 2016 Apps4VA JMU Challenge. Apps4VA was created as a partnership between the Center for Innovative Technology, Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS) Partnering Agencies. The goal was to encourage students to use Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS) data to develop new insightful tools for educators, researchers and policy makers. To meet that goal, Apps4VA hosts two annual challenges: 

  1. A university level challenge with students from the Department of Computer Science at James Madison University
  2. A high school level challenge that is being piloted with students from the Center for Information Technology at Deep Run High School in Henrico County, Virginia. 

The partnership with James Madison University is led by a dynamic and creative-thinking professor of computer science, Dr. Chris Mayfield. Four sections of Dr. Mayfield’s CS 474: Database Design and Application course participated in Apps4VA. The duration of the course was 1 semester.  Students formed teams based on their interest and skill sets (technical writing, design, and coding, testing, communications and project management). Teams were tasked with using available DOE data to mash up with other data to formulate apps that would address a consumer need. 

Students who participated in this fourth year of the challenge were exposed to some exciting challenge upgrades. In the development of app ideas, students pondered “Burning Questions” created by Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS) agency stakeholders. Students considered these burning questions when researching societal and educational challenges to solve. Additionally, each team was partnered with a Virginia Longitudinal Data System agency lead who served in the role of a “client”, a subject matter expert, mentor and potential app user. Students described this opportunity to work with an industry mentor as “unique to any other school project” and “helpful with both app/project development as well as future endeavors.”

 Twenty-five teams of students created apps. The apps were first evaluated by Dr. Mayfield for a project grade and then by an evaluation panel of industry experts. Each team presented their app in a rapid-pitch presentation format and addressed questions from evaluators. Apps were evaluated based on alignment with the project goals, functionality and technical merit, usefulness to stakeholders, feasibility and implementation, and creativity.


The three top apps included:

First Place: College Forecast by the team SQLibrium

This app forecasts which public four-year universities in the state of Virginia students are likely to be admitted to are based on current high school division. The app can be viewed at: The SQLibrium team members are: Samantha Carswell, Joseph Davis, Noah McClelland, Kevin Perkinson, and Melanie Piotrowski.


Second Place: R.H.I.S by the team The Best

This app highlights educational performance and outcomes between Virginia’s “rural horseshoe” region and the more urbanized areas within the state. The app can be viewed at:


Third Place: K.K. & Bros

This app helps graduating high school students decide on a postsecondary school route, with the idea of helping a student decide if a route involving community college is a good choice for them. The app can be viewed at: Students on this team included: Katelynn Beaton, Cole Bradley, Daniel Hawes, and Kaitlin Roberts.

Students from the winning teams will be eligible to compete in this year’s Governor’s Datathon Challenge.

Stay tuned for the next blog post that outlines the Apps4VA High School challenges and the winning student teams.

Tags: Apps4VA;, education

Categories: DOE

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