FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. – Caroline Thoma’s cousin had always wanted to visit Costa Rica.
Sadly, he passed away from leukemia before he got the chance.
Now Caroline and six other 7th graders are pushing to create a mobile app that would allow children who are sick or unable to travel for other reasons to go on virtual trips and learn about places around the world.
“I am sure he would have loved the app,” Caroline said about her cousin, who she called “one of our main inspirations.”
The team from Franklin Avenue Middle School in Franklin Lakes – part of the school district’s gifted and talented program – won best in New Jersey in the Verizon Innovative Learning App Challenge for their app concept, dubbed “Destination Exploration.”
That win put them in the running for National Fan Favorite. The top team will earn $15,000 for their school, the opportunity to work with MIT Media Lab experts to bring their app idea to life, and the chance to present their idea at a technology conference.
The fan favorite winner is determined by public voting, so for the past few weeks the students have been pushing hard for votes.
“We have been trying to work really hard to get a lot of votes,” said Ria Chopra.
The students have done everything from hang fliers around town, to stand outside ShopRite asking for votes, to attend high school basketball games and ask people to vote as they leave.
“We went to two pizza places and taped fliers on all of their pizza boxes, so when you get a pizza box for delivery, you have the flier right in front of your face,” said Julia Wowkun.
They even got the New Jersey Devils to make an announcement asking for votes during intermission of a recent game.
People can vote through Tuesday, Feb. 14, by texting XPLORE to 22333.
The students’ teacher, Alyssa McAloney, said she thinks students would really benefit from attending the technology conference. “I think overall, that would be such a great experience for them … it might change their career path. They might see, this is something I really enjoy.”
Other members of the team are: Allison Lounsbury; Joey Montwaid; Mahima Shah; and Bianca Werheimer.
To watch a video the students created about their app concept, click HERE .