High school students sweep Congressional App Challenge for second year

Students at High Technology High School, a pre-engineering school in Monmouth County, wanted to find a way to make it easier to track people down in an emergency situation. So they designed an app.

“I read about this girl who was biking and she fell into a river and then it took 20 minutes for first responders to come, and by the time they came she died,” said student Rishi Salwi.

the app has already caught the attention of people in Washington. The inventors recently won the Congressional App Challenge, which was set up as a way to encourage STEM education – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Each district picks a winner, who is recognized by their congressman, and the winner’s apps are featured in Washington.

“We wanted to solve three main problems. So there are a lot of accidental dials that happen with 911, when 911 first responders they don’t know your location, and they don’t know your altitude, so they don’t know what floor you’re on,” Salwi said.

It only took about a month and a half for these high school juniors to create this app. The app asks for a verification code, asks you to pick a category of emergency, and immediately sends your exact location to first responders in the area.

“We feel our software really can make a difference in the lives of some,” student Steven Vorona said.

The team has met Rep. Frank Pallone before — they also won the congressional challenge last year.

“[Last year] It was an app that stabilized the screen for Parkinson patients. So Parkinson patients have tremors in their hands so they can’t really use a device or read or talk to loved ones, so we stabilized the screen,” Salwi said.

If that doesn’t inspire you, maybe this will.

In New Jersey, the average salary for a computing occupation is a little over $100,000. That’s almost double the average salary in the state.

“We had two students apply for patents last year and they were awarded patents on their ideas. One was a nail clipper for someone who only had one hand,” High Technology High School Principal Kevin Bals said.

As for these students, their next step is to deploy their app. But they’re always thinking about what’s next.

“I think for the past two years we’ve gone with the same theme of helping people and helping society and I think we’re definitely going to do that next year,” Vorona said.

We’re in this together
For a better-informed future. Support our nonprofit newsroom.
Donate to NJ Spotlight