The Inaugural MIT App Inventor Contest has been announced and is open to everyone. Is this the publicity that App Inventor needs to realize it's potential?
App Inventor provides a drag-and-drop way of creating Android applications. It is easy enough for kids to use but at the same time it goes well beyond trivial apps. I've previously stated on I-Programmer:
App Inventor could be the best thing to happen to programming since Basic.
It was first released publicly in December 2010. So why has it taken almost two years to get to its "inaugural contest"?
So far App Inventor has had a chequered history. It started as a Google project led by MIT's Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Hal Abelson, who spent a sabbatical year at Google.
Initially, from July to December 2011, it was only available "on request". Then within nine months of its release, just as its target audience of grade school teachers and pupils were starting to get really enthusiastic, Google announced that it was dropping the project as part of the closure of Google Labs. Rather than throwing all the work away the project was to be open sourced. In fact it was handed over, together with a chunk of cash, to MIT and this seemed a good solution.
It might have been if Google had been willing to be flexible about its deadlines so as to allow MIT's App Inventor service time to get ready. But no, on December 23, when schools would already have closed for the holidays Google sent out an email reminding its users to download their apps by December 31st despite the fact there was nowhere to upload them to. It took until early March for MIT App Inventor to open its doors - and it is still in beta.
Even now the contest seems a bit premature in that in order to enter you have to access the MIT App Inventor Community Gallery, something that may take "a day or two" unless you are already a member, as it still has the status of a closed beta.
However, contests are always a good way to motivate the existing community and to attract newcomers and this one, for which you have to upload an "Outstanding App", and also complete a form that asks you for "a little about yourself and you programing experience with App Inventor" has a deadline of December 12th.
There are four categories:
- Grade-school (K-8)
- High school (9-12)
- College or University
- Open Division (hobbyists, developers)
The first prize in each category is Google Nexus 7 Tablet and the second prize is a copy of the App Inventor Book.
This is a really good book - read my review to know more - whose lead author is none other than David Wolber, Chair of Computer Science at the University of San Francisco, who is the person responsible for this competition. He also runs the App Inventor blog, authored the advanced tutorials that appear on the App Inventor site and teaches App Inventor to students at USF.
So perhaps to win the top prize the best first step is to get a copy of the second prize!