Westford Academy has made the grade, as a team of its students has been named one of eight winners of the second Verizon Innovative App Challenge. The team’s app concept, “Tactillium,” delivers science education through a chemistry simulator without the expense of chemistry equipment and materials. The app will offer 3D simulations of the equipment, chemicals and reactions that occur in chemistry labs, providing students with chemistry experiences that may not otherwise be available. Created by the Verizon Foundation in partnership with the Technology Student Association, the Innovative App Challenge charged teams of middle- and high-school students across the country with developing concepts for mobile applications that could provide solutions to real problems in their schools or communities. The competition is designed to help boost student engagement and interest in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. Westford Academy is one of four middle schools and four high schools named Best in Nation. The Best in Nation winners were selected from a pool of approximately 1,300 teams across the country that entered the competition. They rose through three levels of competition to be named Best in State, Best in Region and ultimately, Best in Nation. “Verizon applauds the winning teams – and, indeed, all the students who entered the App Challenge – for their effort,” said Christine Berberich, New England President for Verizon Wireless. “The Challenge’s real prize for us is seeing how students use technology as a tool in solving some real problems in their communities. We’re looking forward to seeing the winners’ fully developed apps.” Students from Westford Academy will now focus on developing their app concept into an actual app. To build their app, they will learn to code and how to use MIT App Inventor, with hands-on support and training from Verizon employees and members of the MIT App Inventor Training Corps. Verizon will then help the teams share and distribute their finished apps via a platform such as the Google Play store. Each Best in Nation winning team has earned its school a $15,000 Verizon Foundation grant, in addition to a $5,000 grant for achieving Best in Region. Westford Academy will use the grants to help build the team’s app and advance STEM education. Winning team members will receive new Samsung* Galaxy tablets, courtesy of Samsung Telecommunications America. Members of the eight winning teams will be invited to present their apps in person – on their new tablets – at the 2014 National TSA Conference in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Verizon, June 27 th through July 1 st. The students, working in teams of five to seven, were guided by faculty advisers and received tutorials from Verizon’s Innovation Center engineers, who created instructional videos on app design and development. Best in Region and Best in State winning teams also had access to an online course called “Teaching App Creation with MIT App Inventor,” developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab’s Center for Mobile Learning.