Bronx Teens Create App, Inspire Verizon Black History Month Ad

February 13, 2015  |  

With teenagers using smartphones and apps at record levels daily, one group of teens decided to create rather than just consume technology.

Six students from the Bronx Academy of Promise Charter School won the Verizon Innovative App Challenge and were featured in a newly released Verizon Black History Month advertisement. All passionate about math, the students saw a need and created QuestMath, a Greek mythology-themed educational app that helps users improve their fundamental math skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). The team used MIT App Inventor, a cloud-based tool that helps users design and program their own apps, to create their game.

The 13-year-old students—Michael Bonnah, Jhony Flores, King Lewis, Samuel Owusu, Sherly Quezada and Rokia Sisko—worked together on their storyboards and the coding, bringing their idea to life.

“The best part about creating the app was getting to do something new. Before the App Challenge, I didn’t know how to code, then after experiencing the App Challenge coding has been an interest for me,” says Sisko. “I want to pick a career in it.”

Like Sisko, all of the students want to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Flores has shifted his plans to become a dentist and now wants to explore bioengineering; Bonnah has also expressed an interest in bioengineering. Quezada, who enjoys drawing, has expressed interest in the biomedical field because it fuses science and technology. Samuel wants to be a mechanic, specializing in robotics. Prior to the challenge, Lewis had his eyes set on playing pro football, but has added computer engineering to the equation as well. Meanwhile Sisko, who is set to go through a tech-focused summer program, dreams of becoming a software engineer.

“It was sometimes difficult and sometimes there were a lot of mistakes,” admits Owusu. “But at the end, we did it together and had fun.”

Principal Catherine Jackvony, who became the school’s principal in 2011, couldn’t be more proud of her students.

“When this opportunity arose, we didn’t have a lot of technology in the school, but yet the students, that didn’t slow them down,” says Jackvony. “They took their idea and they put it on Storyboard and they drew it out…to see that process, to see them work together like that, to watch them work together and be proud of it. At the end, to see that anything is possible, no matter what your obstacles are. That was the most rewarding factor.”

To learn more about these young history makers, visit or follow the hashtag, #PotentialOfUs.

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