Culture at Braze

Braze Employees Volunteer in Support of App Inventor Foundation’s Virtual Appathon

Neeraj Thakrar By Neeraj Thakrar Jun 15, 2023

Earlier this year, Braze announced our support for the App Inventor project—a free open-source platform that empowers students to create mobile applications—as part of our Pledge 1% commitment. In connection with this initiative, we are donating an aggregate of $500,000 across the next four years to the App Inventor Foundation, a nonprofit organization set up to support and enhance App Inventor and its educational goals.

Fast forward a few months to May, when a group of ten Braze team members—including myself—volunteered to judge the organization’s App of the Season competition. App of the Season is a free, virtual appathon that encourages young dreamers, changemakers, and doers around the world to build mobile apps for a cause. The goal of the competition is to develop a mobile app using App Inventor that aligns with the competition theme of community and best demonstrates technical skill, design, creativity, and impact.

As judges, we were asked to measure the applicants on two categories, creativity, and impact, by giving a score out of five to each one—with a bonus point awarded to those who have something extra. Each contestant provided us with a presentation that walked through their app at a high level followed by a self-created video running with more detail. I have to say, some of the video presentations were Spielberg-esque, making my Friday afternoon even more enjoyable. After watching the video and reading the presentation, volunteer judges would take our feedback back to the contestants and tally up the points we gave on the graded criteria.

A few highlights of my experience as a judge included:

  1. Putting on my “X Factor” judging hat and seeing what amazing things the participants could think of (while hitting my non-existent golden buzzer)

  2. Having an existential crisis that there are 5-year-olds out there that can create physical apps, meanwhile I celebrate getting a v-lookup to work!

  3. Learning more about the challenges that people are facing around the world and how technology can be leveraged to build solutions to those problems

Of course, number three was the most impactful. The competition had 163 participants (across 73 teams) from 19 different countries and regions, all working to help communities from around the world. The ideas ranged from a team in the US creating an app to analyze classical music to an app that could identify plants on a green wall in Japan (and let you rate your favorite as well.) My personal favorite leveraged ChatGPT to highlight what plants around you were omitting the most pollen during hayfever season. That idea nearly saved my summer!

While every app was impressive in its own right, I’d love to give a shout out to the winners:

  • Jiaxuan, based out of China, who created Avid Reader, a reading assistant utilizing ChatGPT.

  • Emma, Isabelle, and Makayla, based out of the US, who created Found, an app that helps put a stop to human trafficking.

  • Iraj and Vyshal, based out of the US, who created Smart Medicine Dispensing System, an app that helps battle medicinal overdose.

  • Kishimoto, Takei, and Uetake, based out of Japan, who created AI REI, an app that helps battle social isolation amongst individuals in Japan.

A massive well done to everyone that took part this season. For more information about the competition and the upcoming summer appathon, check out the App Inventor Foundation blog post.

Neeraj Thakrar

Neeraj Thakrar

Neeraj Thakrar is a Customer Success Manager for our Global Strategic Clients based out of London. Outside of his day-to-day, Neeraj is his team's personal film and tv recommendation machine. Some say he’s watched everything under the sun, and some say he just copies reviews from the internet! He’s currently mourning the ending of Succession, by watching endless youtube videos about it.

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