Battling bullies with an app? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Battling bullies with an app?

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STEM studies and bullying are two of the biggest buzz words in education lately. And some students in Swanton are combining the two in their latest project.

"I always thought making an app was really cool," sixth-grader Grace Kinney said. "I mean who wouldn't want to make an app?"

Grace and five of her classmates all took on the innovative app challenge. It's a yearly competition sponsored by Verizon to encourage kids to get involved in creating technology. This year 1,300 schools across the country signed up for the challenge.

One of the requirements is the app needs to try to solve an issue in your school. In Swanton, they went with bullying.

"They had to research what bullying apps were out there and they didn't really find much. They actually found an app that was bullying. It was a game where you could bully someone. They were pretty surprised by that," teacher Daniel Diamond said.

"We wanted our app to do something, like an activity. To help you know what to do if you're being bullied," said Damien Dipietro, a sixth-grader.

The kids say bullying isn't a huge problem in the sixth grade, but they know next year when they go to junior high that will probably change. Another issue with bullying-- it's not cool to go running to the teacher when you have a problem. So these kids thought a solution to that would be to create a way kids can report issues to their teacher right through their app.

"We tell them what the effects of bullying are and you can see some videos about how you can calm yourself down or how you can stop bullying," Grace explained.

So far they have designed the Bully App on paper, working together to make decisions about what information they want to include. They also want to help kids know what to do if they see someone being bullied. And it's taken a lot of work. Their teacher says he's surprised at just how dedicated they are to seeing this project come to life.

"Working lunches and recess, before school, after school-- a lot of other kids would have peaced out and gone to recess, but these guys didn't," Diamond said.

"Technology has always been hard with me, but doing this app challenge was really fun," Damien said.

And that hard work paid off; Swanton Middle School's Bully App beat out all other middle schools in the state and now they will get to see their app come to life. MIT students will now help the kids turn their drawings into an actual app. And if they get first place in the regional competition, they'll win thousands of dollars for their school to continue technology education.

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