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MIT, Samsung hold app camp

High school students attended the Samsung Mobile App Academy — a two-day crash course in app-making — this week at MIT.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

High school students attended the Samsung Mobile App Academy — a two-day crash course in app-making — this week at MIT.

Teens love their smartphone apps. But few probably know much about how hard it is to make one.

During a two-day workshop at MIT put on by the electronics giant Samsung, 30 high school students from Massachusetts schools received a crash course in the art of making apps.

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And many quickly realized that even the simplest programs are deceptively complex.

“I just thought you had an idea and then made an app,” said Diego Bazan, a 17-year-old Revere High School student. “It’s not like that at all.”

Bazan was part of the Samsung Mobile App Academy that came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday and Thursday as part of a campaign in six cities this summer to teach kids about technology and promote careers in science and engineering.

At the end of the academies, students use what they have learned to come up with their own app concepts. Samsung selects the best idea and will award as much as $20,000 in scholarship money. Samsung said it also may turn the winning idea into an actual app.

“We want to give these students a hands-on opportunity to learn about app development so they will continue on into careers that will help shape the future of mobile technology,” said Cindy Chang, marketing manager for Samsung Telecommunications America.

David L Ryan/Globe Staff

Thomas Miller of Vanguard Direct in New York served as an instructor at the Samsung Mobile App Academy.

Inside an MIT classroom, participants wearing blue Samsung T-shirts worked in groups on scenarios for designing apps for shopping, health care, sports, and education. They outlined their approaches on whiteboards and went through a process that involved thinking about user experiences and navigation — not unlike the process professionals go through.

It was a stretch for some.

Aidan O’Day, a 16-year-old from Arlington, had trouble figuring out what to include in his group’s app for a fictitious women’s clothing chain. “I don’t shop, so I don’t get it.”

But these teenage designers are doing in just two days what professionals spend months trying to accomplish, said Nomi Kaplan, an instructor for the Samsung academy. “Cramming this into two days is pretty difficult.”

Still, she said, “I hope they see the opportunities in this industry.”

Joseph Romano, 15, of Arlington, won a $20,000 scholarship after competing in the local Samsung Academy last summer. A junior at Arlington High School this fall, he plans to use the money to study computer science or medicine in college.

His winning idea was an app that connects people with volunteer work. After the contest, he considered making it into a reality, but was overwhelmed by the development challenges.

This summer’s app academies are also a chance for Samsung to promote its smartphones and tablets to the next wave of consumers in the ever-fierce battle with Apple Inc. and Google Inc. for mobile-market hare.

All students left with a free Samsung Galaxy tablet.

Michael B. Farrell
can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.
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