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Updated Feb 3, 2014 - 8:58 am

Arizona teens to design mobile app for fire department

(KTAR Photo/Michael Mashburn)

MESA, Ariz. -- Need information about Gilbert Fire and Rescue? There's an app for that, or at least there will be.

High school students from around the state gathered at Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus in Mesa last week to learn the latest in mobile-application development. It was all part of the kickoff of the second annual Schools Participate in App Resource and Knowledge (SPARK) App League.

Under the direction of ASU assistant professor Ashish Amresh, students learned what goes into building a mobile app, from design and visualization to the final code implementation.

For the next three months, the students will work in teams to design and produce an app for Gilbert Fire and Rescue. In addition to having their app featured on the city's app store, each winning team member will receive a $200 gift card, along with a trophy.

Amresh said the broader purpose of the contest is to introduce students from different backgrounds and demographics to technology that can help improve the quality of life for the residents of Gilbert.

"Access to technology and building technology skills is not something that they need to be stonewalled by. It's something that's very simple and very accessible," Amresh said. "They just have to put their mind to it and it's an easy platform to get into."

As many as 250 students participated, up significantly from 70 last year. So many students were interested in going to the app conference that many were unable to attend the launch.

"There are many teams that couldn't come here because we have a limit of 300 students, so there's about 80 to 90 other students who are on the waiting list and more are signing up as we speak," Amresh said.

Joseph Mathew, one of five boys on a team from Chandler High School, said it was his first time working collectively on coding.

"Basically, I wanted to join so I could apply my skills and find out what the workplace is like in regards to development of apps," he said.

The winning team will be announced May 1 at the Polytechnic campus.

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