A new app called CERTPRO, which will assist emergency personnel and volunteers in disasters, is in the works. Its creators are not graduates of MIT or college students majoring in computer science. They’re sixth-graders with a passion for programming.
Twelve-year-olds Rushil Chander, Ashwin Koduri, and Sahitya Senapathy call themselves Team Protons. They met in a mathematics enrichment class at Daedalus Education in Plano and have been working since October to create the app.
“Right now [first responders] don’t have any way of locating their team,” said Rushil, whose mother, Shri, coaches the team. “They use paper and pencil and none of it is even close to electronic-based.”
The app has many functions, but its main goals are to help emergency personnel with communication, and task and resource management. The idea was inspired by this year’s Lego League Robotics theme, Nature’s Fury, which got the boys thinking about ways to help out in the event of a natural disaster.
Sahitya, a student at St. Mark’s, is glad to provide a service that has the potential to rescue people in danger.
“It will save a lot of lives and let [first responders] come together as easily as possible to help,” he said. “It will make a great difference in the community.”
Brainstorming was the most time-consuming step of the process, but the most challenging step happened later. The boys used MIT App Inventor to create CERTPRO, and as soon as they had finished programming the basics, App Inventor switched from Version 1 to Version 2, which forced them to start over and learn a completely new format.
Team Protons has entered the product into various national science competitions. It was one of hundreds of entries selected for the final round of the Christopher Columbus Awards.
All eight teams in the final round were treated to a trip to Walt Disney World, where teams were interviewed by several judges. Team Protons didn’t take home the gold, but to their families and friends, they’ve already succeeded.
“I think if they show the commitment, you show them the direction. That’s the magic blend,” said Shri Chander, a programming expert who took a break from her 15-year technology career in 2009 to spend time with her children. “In my mind, they’ve already won.”