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February 4, 2015

Tri-Tech Skills Center Team wins ‘Best in Nation’ in National Verizon Innovative App Challenge

A team of five high school students from Tri-Tech Skills Center was named ‘Best in Nation’ winners for the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. Their app called Safe & Sound addresses a way for teens to manage stress and feelings of depression.

The team is one of eight winners from across the nation who will travel to Dallas in June to present their apps in person at the National TSA Conference.

The team earned their school $20,000 in a cash grant from the Verizon Foundation to further develop or support STEM-related programming. Each team member also received a Samsung tablet.

Team members include:

  • Amanda Arellano (Grade 12) from River’s Edge High School in the Richland School District
  • Stephanie Lopez (Grade 11) from Kiona-Benton City High School in the Kiona-Benton City School District
  • Genesis Saucedo (Grade 12) from Hanford High School in the Richland School District
  • Marina Stepanov (Grade 12) from Pasco High School in the Pasco School District
  • Chloe Westphal (Grade 11) from Mid-Columbia Partnership in the Kennewick School District.


First year Tri-Tech Skills Center teacher, Kristel Kinder, encouraged students in her Health Informatics class to enter the competition to emphasize the importance of technology in health care.

Over the next few weeks, MIT App Inventor Master Trainers from the Center for Mobile Learning at the MIT Media Lab will give the team onsite and virtual training on coding and app development, using MIT App Inventor to develop the team’s apps. Verizon, in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab, will help the students develop their app concepts, making them ready for sharing and distribution. 

The Verizon Innovative App Challenge is designed to respond to a critical need to inspire student interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Student interest and proficiency in STEM has been stagnant in the United States, especially among women and minorities, although 80 percent of all jobs over the next decade will require STEM skills. By focusing on concepts for mobile apps, Verizon’s App Challenge channels young people’s devotion to their mobile devices into a hands-on learning experience that empowers them to become builders of technology solutions to everyday problems. Learning to develop their concepts into working apps is an effective way to further engage them in STEM-related subjects and transform them from users of technology to creators.