By Edward Cardenas

DETROIT (CBS Detroit) – An app created by students from Patrick Henry Middle School to help improve communication between teachers and families was selected as the top mobile application created at a recent hackathon held at the Ford STEAM Lab in Detroit.

For nearly two days, 100 students from five Metro Detroit middle schools, brainstormed to create an app and then worked with technology professionals to learn the basics of software coding and develop an app to “help innovate education in their school” at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center in southwest Detroit.

“This event was designed to give students a voice in their education while learning software coding skills needed to be technology entrepreneurs,” said Shawn Wilson, manager, Multicultural Community Engagement, Ford Motor Company Fund, in a release. “What students taught us is just as valuable — utilize existing technology, develop flexible schedules so they can continue learning on their own time, and improve ways to communicate outside the classroom.”

The event took place at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center in Detroit, and was featured live on a cable show broadcast nationally, and brought together professionals local and national organizations including #YesWeCode form Oakland, Calif., along with Detroit based Sister Code and Grand Circus to assist the students in creating the app.

After the app was created, students had to pitch their plan in a “Shark Tank” style competition before a panel of judges.

The top apps, and the prizes they received, include:

  • First Place – Patrick Henry Middle School, Woodhaven, Mich.
    • App: Second School. What it does: Allows students, parents, and teachers access to students’ curriculum away from the classroom, ability to track their school progress in real time, and one-to-one communication between parents and teachers.
    • Winnings: $15,000 for the school and $2,500 scholarships to each of the five team members to continue their education after high school.
  • Second Place – Clippert Academy, Detroit.
    • App: Bookctionary. What it does: A mobile reading assistance application focused on interactive reading comprehension through quizzes, audio assistance, and eBook downloads.
    • Winnings: $7,500 for the school.
  •  Third Place – Simpson Middle School, Flat Rock, Mich.
    • App: Stems Root Builder. What it does: A learning application focused on keeping students up to date with their course work when they are out of school.
    • Winnings: $5,000 for the school.
  • Fourth Place – Fisher Upper, Detroit
    • App: Exstatic. What it does: An app that combines learning music and math together through a gaming and creative platform.
    • Winnings: $2,500 for the school.

Additionally, Ford joined with the United Auto Workers union give all students who participated in the Hackathon to attend a one-week, summer software coding class offered by Henry Ford College free of charge.

Students also heard from musician Big Sean, who is on tour and held a Skype conversation to discuss the importance of technology and the role of the Internet in future jobs. “I can honestly say the Internet really helped me become the artist that I am today,” he said.