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South Valley Journal

JATC students design app for national contest

Feb 17, 2020 02:03PM ● By Jet Burnham

Currently, there is no system to track greenhouse inventory. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

A team of students at Jordan Academy for Technology & Careers South Campus in Riverton was one of the six Utah finalists competing in the first phase of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest

The national competition challenges students in grades 6–12 to creatively use STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills to solve complicated issues affecting their communities.

A team of seven students in Melinda Mansouri’s web design class developed the idea for an app to keep track of plants sales for the landscape design and horticulture management classes also housed at JATC’s south campus. There is currently no system to keep track of inventory or aid with the sale of the poinsettias, succulents and other plants they sell to the community.

The students’ solution is RFID tags that interact with a phone app will be programmed with inventory and pricing information and attached to each plant in the greenhouse. 

“The inventory side of it is going to be a blessing, so we can actually see what we've got on hand,” said Justin Rindlisbacher, landscape and horticulture teacher. “When check out happens, it’s a simple scan. It takes out the user error for a 99% success rate.”

Mansouri said the project has given students real-world experience working with a client. As web design students work with their peers in the landscaping classes, they learn to listen to each other and to respect that each group knows the needs and limitations of their part of the project. Senior Nick Harer said when everyone contributes their ideas, they find the best solutions to problems and create a product that meets the needs of both groups. Senior Brandon Black said everyone on the design team has a specific role.

“You've got the best of one person and the best of another person to try and figure out how everything is going to fit together and to work things out,” he said.

Senior Zach Livolsi said designing for a contest has been more motivating than a regular assignment.

“It serves a purpose other than just getting a grade for it,” he said.

Their web design curriculum has covered simple app design, but the team’s idea requires a more complex design. Aidan Griffin said they are learning a lot through trial and experimentation.

“There’s a lot of learning,” he said.

Work on the contest is part of the students’ grade for their web design class, which earns students seven college credits. It also looks good on college and scholarship applications.

Mansouri said being selected as one of 300 finalists in the first phase of the nationwide contest helped students realize how uniquely skilled they are.

“Sometimes, they don't realize how employable they really are,” she said. “I think it's nice when they start looking at themselves, comparing themselves to other students throughout the state and just seeing what's possible.”

Even if students don’t go into a web design career, their experience makes them more employable.

“Every business has a website or an app, or they want one,” Mansouri said. “You're just a more valuable employee if you can even talk to the developer in their language and get what you need.”

The JATC team was one of six Utah finalists, which included Mountain Heights Academy, West Jordan; Richfield High School, Richfield; Nebo Advanced Learning Center, Salem; West Bountiful Elementary School, West Bountiful; and Valley Elementary School, Eden.

Unfortunately, the team did not progress to the next level of the contest, which puts them out of the running to win the $100,000 in technology and classroom materials and a trip to Washington, D.C., to present their project to members of Congress. Mountain Heights Academy was selected to advance to compete with the remaining top 100 teams.

Mansouri is still determined to help her students develop their idea even without the support and resources the contest would have provided. They are looking for an industry partner.

“I will try and find someone who can come and help us,” she said. “We'd really like to have this up and working for school.”

Currently, the biggest issue is the cost of purchasing a large amount of tags for testing.

“We've had to do a lot of research,” said senior Katelyn Swain. “We don't know what the tags can withstand with elements the greenhouse. We have to make sure that we do it properly; otherwise, it's going to be a huge waste of time.”