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Lake Forest students build apps in Everett School after-school program

Linda Blaser
lblaser@pioneerlocal.com | @LindaJBlaser
June 5 5 a.m.

If Deer Path Middle School doesn’t offer an app creation class next year, incoming fifth-grader Kelly Lombardo might try to sneak back to Everett Elementary School to retake it.

“We made a ton of different apps,” Kelly said. “One of the most successful — and one that a lot of people probably like — was Smiley Fly.”

The 9-year-old and a friend used Sketch Nation, a free game-creation platform, during a nine-session App Creation Class in the after-school Brainstormers program at Everett School to create and publish apps.

Information Literacy Instructor Susie Oh put together the class based on student interest, and said she needed a minimum of six students to hold the course, which ended May 22. She capped enrollment at 20, not knowing what to expect. The class filled up in one day.

The third- and fourth-graders who met after school Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Everett Computer Lab researched which platforms worked best, then got down to work building apps.

“All of the apps created in class were published work, so they can find each other’s games,” Oh said.

Kelly said she realized that creating an app is a lot harder than it looks.

“I didn’t really understand, and almost everybody in this class didn’t understand, that you can’t make a game like Temple Run in a day,” Kelly said. “It takes about a year. We were only making pretty simple games, but there’s a lot more to apps than just doing it.”

At first, Colin Martens, 9, didn’t think he’d ever be able to create his own app.

“Ms. Oh showed us the first template and I sort of started freaking out,” Colin said.

Then the team found Sploder, a free, online game creator that lets users share apps with friends, and Colin ended up creating a game with three levels and 14 stages.

“I didn’t think I’d get that far,” he said.

Fourth-graders Hailey Kowalski and Luci Bermel, both 10, teamed up to create an informational app called Local Animal Fast Facts 2.0.

Their app shows photos of 15 animals the two have encountered near their homes, including a robin, rabbit, squirrel, brown bat, red-tailed hawk and earthworm. Clicking on the photos brings up a list of facts about the animal and, in some cases, a video clip.

“For our first step, we created a spreadsheet to organize our information,” Hailey said.

Then they created their app using all the data they collected.

Condensing that information into one place “is really neat,” Oh said. “They don’t have to go look for the information and they made it easier for other students who, like them, are interested in local animals.”

Evan Hvostik, 10, created three games of varying difficulty levels during the after-school program.

“This has really been fun,” he said ­— but not necessarily easy.

“Once I make a game, I think I’m going to beat it,” Evan said, “but you never really know.”

Justin Sexauer, 10, worked with a partner to create games, a collaboration that worked well for them.

“We both had separate ideas and we kind of combined it into one,” Justin said.

“I did this class because I really like computers and I wanted to learn more while doing something fun,” he said. “Thankfully, there were enough spots because it filled up pretty fast.”

If there’s enough interest, Oh will try to offer the class again next school year — and maybe open enrollment, at some point, to the younger grades.

“We’ve never done an app creation class, but it turned out really well,” she said. “A lot of parents have asked if I’ll be offering it in the fall. We’ll try.”

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