Wrap Up: EDU Challenge: App Edition Nov 6-8, 2015

Wrap Up: EDU Challenge: App Edition Nov 6-8, 2015

The Idea

It started with a simple meeting about finding an app developer for Learning Through The Arts - Digital Media Arts program.  This turned into a deep discussion about the need for technology in schools and preparing our students for not only the jobs of today but the future.  

It doesn’t just take 1 app developer to create educational tools for students. It takes students, educators, school boards, businesses, community organizations, designers, creators and coders to build something truly valuable.  

Getting buy in from the community level is essential in navigating a complicated landscape. 

It Takes A Village to Create An App

Tasked with a vision of bringing people together, Learning Through The Arts set out to launch the 1st ever EDU App Challenge in Calgary.  It would be based on the concept of a Hackathon with an education focus.  

The question: What would happen if you brought together students, educators, coders, designers, marketers, creators and visionaries in one room for 48 hours… What would they create?

This was not an easy task but the community came together quickly to make this vision a reality in just 3 short months.  Telus donated $5,000 worth of prizes, The Royal Conservatory - Learning Through The Arts provided $5,000 in cash prizes, Robots and Pencils donated their Pencilcase software to be used to create app prototypes built during the EDU Challenge plus provide support throughout the event.  

The Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship & Innovation covered the costs of the beautiful space in MacEwan Hall at the University of Calgary for the weekend and not to mention the community organizations who immediately agreed to share EDU Challenge through their networks so we could get the most exposure and registrations. 

Chic Geek, Octopus & Son Social Media, Calgary Arts Development, Cybera, Place2Give, Startup Calgary, Collective 12 | 12, Dexterity Ventures, Victor Panlilio Photography and Dissolve committed to partnering with us to ensure that our EDU Challenge would be a success.  A few media stories from the Metro and Techvibes also did a fantastic job at boosting our exposure.  

The Challenges

Learning Through The Arts knew of 3 challenges they were facing when working with students. They needed solutions to these challenges in order to deliver their curriculum in schools. We sent the challenges off to the participants before the event, to give them time to brainstorm the ideas. 

Online Personality Challenge

How could an app help you and your friends' control the way you want to be seen or viewed online? For example, could it alert you when you’re doing something in the moment that you might regret later, based on keywords, for example, and hold off submitting until later?

Video Production Challenge

How could you create an app that makes it easy to put video clips together in different ways to express your ideas? Something more intuitive that doesn’t use a timeline and cut and paste, and makes it really easy to play with the order and timing of the clips?

Critical Thinking Challenge

For learning to occur, students need to be able to explain the choices they make when they are creating a video or other expression of learning, and teachers need to be able to ask questions about those choices. How can an app support this kind of reflection and questioning in a way that doesn’t completely block the flow when students are developing their ideas? Can you find a way to support this within a simple app that allows users to upload photos, add text or voice over, and create a slide show? Get creative! 

The EDU App Challenge November 6 - 8, 2015

Friday came quickly and we kicked off the weekend hearing from Shaun Elder, Executive Director of Learning Through The Arts, Julie Barton of the Calgary Board of Education and Patrick Lor, co-founder of istockphoto and now Founder/CEO of Dissolve, combining a beautiful blend of arts, education and technology information for the audience. 

The highlight of the night was when participants pitched their ideas to the group.  We had over 14 ideas. Then the hard part came when we had to select 5 to work on over the weekend.  The creativity was high and in the end we 6 teams were created working on 6 ideas.

Through the weekend, we filled the participants minds with mini-sessions and mentors, stopped in to assist and filled their stomachs with lots of food!  Saturday, Stephanie Chan, kicked off the day speaking about how to validate your ideas.  After lunch, Stella Lee spoke about UX design and Learning Design (LX). Sunday, the organizer of the event, Hannah Cree, prepped the participants on how to pitch their prototypes to the audience and judges that night. 

The Teams

(listed in alphabetical order)


Team members: Daisy, Muhammad, Meet, Sharad, Andrew and Andrew
They developed a non-intrusive prototype App, which allows students to text, instant message, tweet, use FB + SnapChat, while protecting their Online Reputation and Safety, while largely working in the background through a keyboard. 

FinEd Jr.

Team members: Ben, Yanyu and Meet
A financial education app that is interactive, providing instant feedback, hands-on and self-paced curriculum with a leadership board and badges to encourage engagement and shareable content. 


Team members: Benny, Ben, Raymond, Diana, Nikita, 
Pathfinder is a digital media app that will allow young creators to craft unique digital media content like videos without disrupting the workflow by integrating mind maps and video editing tools.

Peer Cube

Team members: Isaac, Aaron and Jacky
Peer Cube is a mobile app that facilitates the use of inquiry based learning in an interactive classroom setting. This includes the functionality for students to chat with each other, publish content, track task status and collaborate on a real time basis.


Members: Christopher, Brad, Katie and Megan
Developed based off an idea from a member of the team that is 14 years old, Unbroken - “you’ll be OK” - is a mobile application to help teenaged girls to deal with their mental health concerns. Girls are at crisis point, mental health is the biggest risk they face. UnBroken gives teens the information, tools and support they need to manage their mental health concerns.

Zero to Hero

Members: Michael, Tina, Christopher and Carrie
Zero to Hero is a mobile game that asks teens to visualize their dream career, then analyzes their social media channels and assigns points for positive social media engagement that is used to progress your Avatar towards achieving their dreams. It teaches critical thinking about social media use, while preparing teens of today for jobs in the creative economy of tomorrow.

Judging Event

Sunday night we wrapped up the weekend by inviting family, friends and the Calgary community to the University of Calgary to present what the teams had been working on all weekend.  The judging panel was a blend of technology, education and arts: Mar’ce Merrell, John Scully, and James Reckseidler from Learning Through The Arts, Matt Armstrong from the Calgary Board of Education, Kevin Dahl from Robots and Pencils, Ray DePaul, Director, Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Mount Royal University and Gena Rotstein from Dexterity Ventures and Place2Give. Plus we had the audience vote for their favorite.  

This was not easy, after the scoring was complete, all the teams were within .25 or .50 points of each other!  This lead to much discussion and deliberation with the judges.  In the end, due to the generous sponsorship of Telus we were able to award each team with a prize, plus award the top 3 teams with cash prizes.   

The Top 3:
Pathfinder, Peer Cube and Zero to Hero (also the audience favorite)

What Will Happen to the Apps? 

Truly, all the apps were fantastic! We were all blown away by the teamwork, innovation and creativity of all the teams.  Learning Through The Arts is committed to working together with our sponsors and community partners to either introduce each team to organizations or people that may need the technology or find ways to develop them through the LTTA Digital Media Arts programs.

Did the Participants Enjoy the Weekend?

We took a survey right after the weekend, and the response was fantastic.  100% of participants said they would participate in the EDU Challenge again or another hackathon.  Of course there is always room for improvement and we were grateful for all the feedback.

Some of the participant comments were: 

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Someone even tweeted this out during the event:

What’s Next?

This event was the 1st of its kind for Learning Through The Arts and it was a great success.  We experienced what would happen when we put a variety of people in the room and ask them to solve real world problems in education. 

Moving forward we want to continue to build community throughout Canada by hosting events like this and working with community organizations, businesses, entrepreneurs, educators, school boards and students. Leveraging the experience of Learning Through The Arts’ history of working in the schools and being facilitators of creative learning.  

The name of the events moving forward will now be EDU Challenge and depending on the community / city needs, we will develop a challenge that suits them, including the setup and length.  

The next event will be held at ihub Niagara, December 12, EDU Challenge: STEAM. 


It truly takes a village to create innovative solutions. We are grateful to the sponsors, partners and participants for seeing the vision and making it a reality. We can’t wait for the next one!