School may be out, but a team of Carencro High students has one final assignment: win the fan favorite contest in a national Lenovo app design competition.

The Carencro High School Academy of Information Technology team is one of five winners selected from a pool of 120 entrants in the fifth annual Lenovo Scholar Network app competition. The contest stems from a partnership between the tech giant and education non-profit NAF to serve students in over 130 NAF academies nationwide.

NAF is a national network of education, business, and community leaders who work together to ensure that high school students are college, career, and future ready.

The other winning teams are from schools in Hamburg, New York; Miami, Florida; Naples, Florida; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

The partnership aims to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics-based learning and further incorporate technology in the classroom. In 2014, Carencro High’s academy was one of 10 NAF schools selected for the Lenovo Scholar Network pilot program.

The Carencro High students are hopeful their relaxation app, Transpiration, can win over supporters to take the top spot in the fan competition. Junior Dylan Fleming, the team’s leader, came up with the idea while mulling over the competition’s call to design something with societal benefits.

Senior Gentry Thibodeaux said the team thought about issues effecting their families and realized stress is a universal problem.

“In today’s time, a lot of people are stressing out about things they’re expected to do or things they expect themselves to do. There’s a lot of expectation going around,” Thibodeaux said. 

The app offers three options for relaxation: guided breathing exercises, doodling or listening to soundscapes. The guided breathing exercises lead users through timed step-by-step breathing practices.

The doodling option lets users select different colors and line and dot sizes to create works of art. Finally, the soundscapes allow users to fall asleep or meditate to the sound of crickets, birds, the ocean or the forest, he said.

Computer science teacher Daniel Soileau convened the competition team in the spring to allow the junior class time to gain more coding experience in their fall classes. He said he felt it was important to have a mixed team to diversify the pool of ideas and create continuity for next year’s team.

The eight-person team included juniors Dylan Babineaux, Daniel Bearb, Dylan Fleming, Valyna Nguyen, Savion Siner and Kyler Faul, and seniors Gentry Thibodeaux and Elisabeth Vazquez.

Solieau said he took a hands-off approach to the team, ensuring the students had ownership of the project and were working independently to solve problems and navigate the process. He kept the team on track but wanted the students to have a true app building experience, rather than an assignment guided by a faculty member, he said.

Having an entirely student-led project was more authentic and provided the students a greater learning opportunity and was an approach thats better prepares the students for the future.

“People who are successful are the ones who can be independent and solve the problems that come up in front of them and don’t quit. You can’t fail if you don’t give up,” Soileau said.

The teens kicked off the project by breaking down each person’s strengths and dividing into work groups. Each team member assumed control of an aspect of the app development process, from coordinating color schemes and appearance to using block-based programming to structure sections of the app, Fleming said.

They worked during the academy’s “skinny,” a 30-minute targeted-learning period where students work on ACT prep, tutoring and other specialized needs. The app team gathered during the skinny period and some class and free time over two weeks to quickly complete the project.

Working together was the key to success, Fleming said.

“If I didn’t know how to do something someone else could probably do it," he said. "It’s always useful to have people with different skill sets because then you can accomplish more than if you all only knew how to do the same things.”

The team’s biggest struggle was an unexpected one: they had done too much work. When the team went to submit their app a couple days before the deadline, they realized the app included too many features and the file size was too large.

“We all chuckled a little bit and said, ‘Oh, we did too much,’” Thibodeaux said.

They hurriedly reevaluated the app, chopped a few sections and submitted it in time. As the weeks passed, the recognition rolled in. First, they were named to the competition’s top 30. Then, during a recent lunch duty, Soileau received an email the team was a winner.

Thibodeaux said he was in disbelief.

“Seeing how far we’ve come is genuinely cool,” Fleming said.

What’s cooler is that they still have further to go.

In July, Fleming and Thibodeaux will travel to Detroit with academy director Claire Trouard and other representatives from Carencro High’s Academy of Information Technology for NAF’s annual conference.

Students from the five winning schools will present their apps to the attendees and the fan favorite winner will be announced, Trouard said. The winner will receive new Lenovo products for their school. 

“They’ve excelled to a point where they’ve earned recognition outside of the school. That’s an opportunity not many kids get,” Trouard said.

Visit https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/lenovo-app-inventor-program/lenovoscholars/vote to vote for Carencro High's IT Academy in the fan favorite contest. 


Follow Katie Gagliano on Twitter, @katie_gagliano.