William & Mary - Chartered 1693VBCPS - Charting the CourseMachut Industries
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Sondra Woodward
Date: 11/18/20 Phone: 757.263.1797
News Release No. 006 Fax: 757.263.1010
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Email: sondra.woodward@vbschools.com

"Perfect" local collaboration leads to
resource for military families

In conjunction with Military Family Appreciation Month, Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS), William & Mary and Machut Industries, Inc. have developed and launched the Military Assistance Portal, or M.A.P., an app designed to provide military families across Hampton Roads with access to social, emotional and educational supports.

"The M.A.P. application has offered the opportunity for community partners to unite and support those who serve us; our military," said Natalie Meiggs, the project's lead and the Coordinator of Military Connected & Academic Support Programs for VBCPS.

The app provides users with information about Fleet and Family support centers, educational, grief and mental health resources, including phone numbers, email addresses and website links, all integrated with any mobile device's GPS for mapping purposes.

Funded through a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) grant, M.A.P. began in the summer of 2017 with the creation of the VBCPS Globally Resilient Innovative Thinkers (GRIT) Resource Guide. As part of the $1.5 million grant, VBCPS collaborated with William & Mary, military connected school counselors, military school liaison officers and other community partners to develop this comprehensive resource to serve military-affiliated families in both VBCPS and the surrounding communities.

Upon completion of the GRIT guide, the project team wanted to make the information more accessible. Vaelyn Dulce and Alexis Osipovs were seniors at VBCPS' Advanced Technology Center when they joined the project as interns in 2018 and were tasked with transforming the guide into an app.

"Vaelyn and I began developing M.A.P. by discussing staging and production sites," explained Osipovs. "It was important for us to have a place where we could experiment and test the app without affecting the final product for the user, so from there, we laid out M.A.P. in a private Google Site. "

"We decided to move forward with a platform named Thunkable," added Dulce, "as it allowed embedded web viewers to display our website. It is essentially our website, but modified to make it flow seamlessly as a mobile application. M.A.P. is both a website and an app, so more people will be able to access and find the resources they need. After all, that is the main goal: to help as many people as possible."

Christopher Machut of Machut Industries, Inc. provided technical coaching, using his expertise in application and website development to guide the M.A.P. Development Team through the transformation of a repository of static resources into an interactive application to serve the military community.

"This is a perfect collaboration of the private and public sectors," said Dr. Gail B. Hardinge, Executive Director of the STEM Education Alliance at William & Mary and one of the students' mentors in the project. "Teamwork was at the heart of the M.A.P. project, but it was an amazing student-to-student partnership as well. What a thrill to witness two incredibly committed Virginia Beach high schoolers work with social and emotional resource data compiled by W&M graduate students, then continue their work with an engineer who had a passion for supporting young learners interested in technology. Now those students are in their sophomore college year, both majoring in the technology field."

The M.A.P. app is available at no charge for the iPhone and iPad via the Apple App Store and for Android devices via Google Store. A tutorial is available on the VBSchools YouTube channel.

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Department of Media and Communications, vbcpsweb@vbschools.com

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