Competition + ingenuity = apps

Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology sophomore Sanskriti Deva and senior Vietfu Tang are proof that competition can lead to ingenuity. Two competitions led them to build award-winning apps that meet everyday needs.

Phillip O. Berry is a district-wide magnet high school that offers curriculum in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The school's technical offerings provide career pathways in three academies: engineering, information technology and health ccience. Sanskriti is in the engineering track while Vietfu chose information technology.

Sanskriti is a member of the Silcone Valley Young Coder's Club, an initiative formed by Charlotte Council member Dimple Ajmera. In December, Sanskriti led a team, which competed against students from across the country in the annual Silicon Valley Shark Tank, a business plan-pitching competition. She developed the MyFood app to scan and show what is in food through 3-D image processing. The app can scan barcodes and provide information about likely allergens. Her app and business model won first place in the state and nation.

"It was a wonderful experience. I had the opportunity to meet leaders from Facebook, Google and Tesla," she said. "Venture capitalists from Silicon Valley are looking to invest in my app so I can build the prototype. That's really exciting!"

Vietfu's Alacrity, which is available in the Google play store, is a natural disaster-preparation app. He entered the app in the annual Lenovo Scholar Network National Mobile App Development Competition winning first place. The app features an alert indicator of nearby weather alerts, a live map of current severe weather in the U.S., an offline set of disaster guides, a notification system that allows users to send their locations and messages instantly to emergency contacts and a checklist to prepare a basic emergency disaster kit.

"Creating the app allowed me to do what I do best — breaking down a problem and finding the solution," he said.

Both students spent a combined 150 hours developing their concepts.

"I learned it takes a lot of planning and dedication to go through the development process," said Vietfu. "My first hurdle was developing the user interface. My goal was to make it clean and easy to use but determining the colors and layout was difficult. Continuous trial and error got me to my goal."

Sanskriti has wanted a career in the technology field since elementary school. In eighth grade, she had an award-winning science fair project that proved mathematically that future time travel was possible. Recently, Nobel Prize winner John C. Mather invited her to join the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists.

"My dream is to be a chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company that creates tech-based solutions that would solve world problems," she said.

Computers have always fascinated Vietfu. Alacrity is the third app he has created during his time at the school. He plans to have a career as a software developer.

"My parents got me my first computer when I was in fifth grade. I infected it with viruses so I could test antiviruses and see which worked best," he said.  "All the things I've learned on my own and at school will help me pursue greater projects in the future."