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North Fulton students solve problem, win prize

A group of Johns Creek High School students created a way for students who stay after class for activities to find a ride home, and they won a large cash prize for their alma mater.

Last year, Sneha Iyer and her sister, Preeti, were seniors on the Johns Creek robotics team.

Sneha said the upperclassmen members of the team had cars to drive, but noticed that underclassmen who wanted to join the team had the problem of trying to arrange rides home from after school events.

“There were numerous obstacles that prevented students from participating in activities,” Sneha said.

It was then that the the Iyers and four other high school seniors decided to create an app to help their school mates arrange after-school transportation. Last spring, the students designed the Vroom ride-sharing app that allows students to catch rides with other students’ parents to or from school. The seniors got a beta version out, but it may be up to the next class to finish the work and get it distributed.

Students would be able to sign into the app to link to available drivers who could get them home, said Corrine Williams, a teacher and faculty adviser for the project.

The high schoolers won the Verizon Innovative Learning App Challenge, a national, no-coding-skills-needed, app design competition that encourages middle and high school students to develop an app that solves a community problem.

“As one of the nine Best in Nation winners of the App Challenge for 2015-16, the Vroom App team from Johns Creek High School had the chance to work with MIT Media Lab experts to turn their app idea into a real, working app, and they earned $20,000 for their school,” a company spokesperson said.

A beta version of the app was tested within the team in order to improve its features and interface. The app has not been released pending further improvements.

“We are still in the process of working on the beta version,” Sneha said. “We don’t want to test it on the school until the app is made.”

Once it is finished, high school students with access to the app will be able to log in and arrange a ride home from school by selecting a driver and a destination.

Williams said the team was aware of the potential safety issues associated with the app during the development process and put up safeguards to ensure that riders would be safe.

“When we’re dealing with children, we need to be aware of who they are getting in the car with,” Williams said. “So drivers can only be parents. They’ll be heavily vetted and riders will need parent approval to arrange a ride.”

The entire team of students who played a part in creating the app graduated in May 2016. Because of that, the work on the finished product has slowed.

“We all understand that as we are going to college, we are going to different parts of the county,” Sneha said. “We won’t be together to develop it.”

Sneha said the team is exploring the possibilities of taking out a patent for the app or selling it to a larger ride-sharing company.

Williams said another possibility is for current Johns Creek students to take over the app’s development and begin field tests.

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