School girl cooks up student menu app

(Old news story, by me)


14-year-old tech star Avika Shah, Stevenage, has successfully pitched a new student menu app on the Tech Partnership’s education resource, TechFuture Classroom.

Pitched in 60 seconds, Avika’s app promises to keep her cousins at university and others like them healthy and fed on the cheap. Her efforts earned her the Capgemini-sponsored ‘Pitch an App’ TechFuture Badge — an industry and teacher-accepted mark of success in digital education.

The app, Uni Food, helps cash-strapped university students plan and prepare their meals for the week. After picking their seven-day menu, Uni Food sends the user a full shopping list, saving forgetful students those annoying return trips to the supermarket. When all the food is bought and back at home, Uni Food churns out recipes so easy and tasty, even homesick freshers won’t miss their mum’s meals. It even calculates and ranks the nutritional value of the dinners, helping users track what they eat and stay healthy whilst at university.

Avika, who has cerebral palsy — a lifelong condition that affects her speech and motor functions — enrolled onto the TechFuture Classroom just before she started her first term at The John Henry Newman School in Stevenage. Her Youth Connexions personal adviser, Claire Townsend, introduced her to the TechFuture Badges and suggested she use the website as a creative outlet for her love of logic and maths.

Avika’s mother, Shital Shah, commented that what’s great about TechFuture Classroom is her condition doesn’t affect her ability to use the website and learn new skills, such as coding languages, cyber security and digital design. Now, with 14 badges in her pocket and counting, Avika is one of the top ranked TechFuture students.

Her love of cooking and concern for her cousins’ eating habits at university inspired the Uni Food app idea. To achieve the ‘Pitch an App’ badge, she had to upload a short video of herself pitching the app to camera. Mrs Shah explained it was a daunting exercise because Avika’s condition impairs her speech. Even so, her mother said the experience and recognition, via the badge, gave her a newfound confidence to persevere with more exercises on the website. “Avika loves TechFuture Classroom — not only because she has great computer skills, but it’s also opened her up to an interesting field and even a career where she could flourish uninhibited by her disabilities”, Mrs Shah said. “I would recommend it to all children interested in technology and am even trying to encourage the rest of my children to have a go. It is a great motivational tool to encourage all that regardless of any disabilities, children are able to excel in various fields.”

The TechFuture Classroom is supported by the industry-backed charity Tech Partnership and designed by employers to get children interested and learning about tech. School children can collect ‘TechFuture Badges’ by completing the 30 minute modules in cyber security, digital design and coding through the TechFuture Classroom. Quick and simple to navigate, the site’s badge system uses the Mozilla Open Badge backpack platform, providing children and teachers evidence of quality-assured online learning.

The resource clocked its one thousandth TechFuture Badge earner this month. TechFuture ‘head teacher’ Sue Nieland said it is a joy that children, teachers and parents are joining the Classroom and taking such an interest in technology. “Not only is TechFuture Classroom fun, educational and easy to use, most of all it gives the children something to show for their efforts,” she said.

When developing the TechFuture Classroom, the employer group Tech Partnership wanted to ensure the website appealed to teachers without encumbering them with more lesson planning. Sue, who heads up the Tech Partnership’s education programme elaborated, “as a former teacher I’d like to emphasise how easy the website is to use. Teachers need only to sign students up, who then choose their modules and they’re ready to go. Video, audio and text instructions take them through the courses, requiring almost no input from teachers.”

Technology is evolving fast and tech employers now want to know what young people can do beyond just knowledge gained through school qualifications — employers want to see what future candidates can do with them. Whereas CVs and resumes are mostly claims about what candidates know and can do, TechFuture Badges via the Mozilla Open Badge platform offer actual evidence.

Sue also commented on the wider context of the UK curriculum and the need for an agile tech education. “There’s been a shift in perception over the last decade around the value of traditional school qualifications to tech”, she said. “It’s commonly understood that the school curriculum struggles to keep pace with real-time developments in the industry. It is a core part of Tech Partnership’s mission to create platforms such as the TechFuture Classroom to help bridge this skills gap.”

“Just as Avika has shown, the Badges provides a fantastic way for young people to cultivate a passion for technology and keep up to date in a targeted, learning environment.”

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