A pandemic upended their communities, so these teen inventors constructed apps to make life simpler

Riya Shah received a patent for her contraction monitoring device in March.


It was March when the uncertainty of a pandemic flooded her life in Louisville, Kentucky. Courses transitioned to digital studying. Then promenade was canceled. By Could, commencement was altered to comply with social distancing pointers.

“It was undoubtedly very disheartening when all of those main milestone occasions acquired canceled,” mentioned Shah, a highschool senior on the time. “These are issues children dream of after they’re rising up.”

However one milestone that Shah had lengthy dreamed of was lastly realized — receiving her first patent for a contraction monitoring gadget in March.

The 18-year-old founder and president of Fetal Life has spent the previous three years creating know-how to assist anticipating moms handle their well being remotely. When the pandemic struck, Shah refocused her present platform to assist ladies navigate being pregnant in a panorama the place a visit to the hospital can pose new dangers. She is considered one of many younger inventors who’ve turned their consideration to combating a world pandemic that has contaminated greater than 32 million and claimed practically 1,000,000 lives.
Riya Shah started Fetal Life after hearing of how her mother faced several instances of false positive contractions. "Her story really inspired me to figure out a way I could help," Shah said.

“We’re fearful about our well being and going out, however pregnant mothers are fearful about two lives,” Shah mentioned. “So what can we do to assist them out?”

From telehealth platforms to apps connecting donors with these in want, rising entrepreneurs have channeled the disruption to their lives into effecting change.

‘Kindness begins with me’

Every summer time, aspiring coders collect on MIT’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for an app invention summit. However this 12 months, the hackathon went digital — limiting face-to-face contact, however opening it as much as the world.

“There was a way of helplessness that was settling down. And an enormous theme in our office is empowerment,” mentioned Selim Tezel, co-chair of the MIT App Inventor Hackathon 2020. “We needed to provide them a context wherein they might be artistic and type of do away with that feeling of helplessness.”

Saan Cern Yong, a 15-year-old app developer in Malaysia, had adopted the hackathon for a number of years. However now that the competitors had moved on-line, he might lastly enter. And he gained.

Yong began with the worth that “kindness begins with me and we are able to take motion instantly.” He designed a cell app known as “We Are Household” to create a charity community inside his neighborhood to assist with the fallout from Covid-19. The prototype was awarded first place within the youth particular person class.

Saan Cern Yong has been coding with the MIT App Inventor for six years.

“I stayed at house for fairly a while, and I discovered a number of issues that I did not want, like some plates or some meals which are an excessive amount of,” Yong mentioned. “We will really give some to people who find themselves actually in want … so this can be a platform for them to proceed this caring society.”

The pandemic not solely shifted Yong’s world — from strict lockdowns to socially distanced school rooms — however it additionally shifted his outlook on coding.

Earlier than Covid-19, Yong mentioned he was creating apps that addressed “small-scale issues that actually hadn’t a lot influence.”

“Covid-19 actually pushed me tougher to make totally different form of apps that assist individuals … to assume outdoors the field, that I really want to innovate and attempt to assist the world.”


When San Francisco grew to become one of many first US cities to go on lockdown, a gaggle of 5 younger ladies started forming a plan.

With closure indicators littering the home windows of long-established eating places, the all-girl coding crew targeted on how their tech abilities may assist their neighborhood.

“Simply figuring out that your surroundings can change a lot, it is generally straightforward to really feel helpless,” 15-year-old Elsa Bosemark mentioned. “However right here I believe it was actually wonderful we might … see an impediment and never hope that it does not harm when it hits you, however attempt to deter it or see it as a problem, and figuring out that it might assist individuals.”

(From left) Anuhea Toa, Athena Jiang-Qin, Elsa Bosemark, Luna Jiang-Qin and Selene Jiang-Qin of the all-girl coding team AlGIRLithm.
The teenage coding crew generally known as AlGIRLithm designed an app to evaluate eating places’ Covid-19 precautions — serving to clients keep protected whereas additionally supporting native companies. For Anuhea Tao, it was additionally a manner to assist different households keep away from what hers went by.‚Äč

When her father’s restaurant closed down, the burden of the pandemic lastly sunk in, she mentioned. It was a anxious time for her household, however the high-school junior used her expertise to assist inform the app’s targets.

“Once we began this hackathon, it was like, ‘Oh, we need to do one thing to really assist our communities and do one thing impactful we’re really keen about,'” Tao mentioned.

Safe Bites allows responders to rate a restaurant on masks, temperature checks, social distancing, sanitization and physical barriers.
Their prototype for Protected Bites gained first place for the youth crew class in MIT’s hackathon. The app continues to be in its improvement part, however the crew hopes to develop their platform to assist individuals make knowledgeable selections on the place to eat and really feel protected doing so.

“Although it began small, with a gaggle of teenagers, this may turn into extra,” Bosemark mentioned. As her dad typically tells her, “You take lemons and making lemonade,” she mentioned.


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