By Elizabeth Wulfhorst
LINCROFT –Rishi Salwi, Steven Verona, and Charvi Shah had never developed an app before. So when they saw posters for the 2016 Congressional App Challenge (CAC), they thought it would be a fun experiment and an opportunity to learn more about coding for mobile devices, never expecting a winning outcome.
But on Nov. 29, the trio, all sophomores at High Technology High School, received the news that they had won the challenge for the 6th District of New Jersey for ParkinSafe, a screen stabilization app that helps people with Parkinson’s disease better use their mobile devices.
Rishi’s grandfather has Parkinson’s, which led him to the initial idea for the app. One of the hallmarks of the disease is tremors, which make using a mobile device difficult. The team felt they could utilize features the iPhone and iPad already have, like the built-in gyroscope and accelerometer, to stabilize the screen, making reading, video chatting and surfing the web easier. The app senses the direction and amount of shake and moves the screen left or right to compensate.
The goal of the app, as Steven states in their supplemental video, is to “improve the life of a Parkinson’s patient just a little bit.”
While all the team members had basic coding knowledge, thanks to skills learned in class at High Tech, none had ever coded for mobile devices. This task was made more difficult when the coding language they chose to use, Swift, updated and made much of the previous syntax obsolete and leaving them to code the app from scratch.
The CAC is coordinated by the Congressional Internet Caucus and the Internet Education Foundation, a nongovernmental sponsor. According to the CAC website, the contest is “aimed at encouraging U.S. high school students to learn how to code” and “intended to highlight the value of computer science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education.”
“The Congressional App Challenge is a wonderful opportunity for students to demonstrate their technical and creative skills,” said Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) in a press release. “I congratulate Steven, Rishi, and Charvi for their winning app and thank all of this year’s participants for their excellent work. It’s especially inspiring to see young people put their talents towards an app that will make a real difference in the lives of people suffering from Parkinson’s and I applaud their compassion and creativity.”
193 districts from 43 states participated in the challenge. Students were judged by a panel of local computer science professionals and congressional representatives on the quality of the idea, the implementation of the idea, and the demonstrated coding and programming skills.
As a winning app in the contest, “ParkinSafe” will be displayed on the Congressional App Challenge website and on a digital display in the Capitol Building for the next year.
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