A group of six grade school girls in Los Fresnos, Texas took it upon themselves to solve a problem for blind kids. They built an app for them.
The app, Hello Navi, first came from the imagination of a particular girl in the group, Grecia Cano. She says her heart went out to the blind students in her school who had a hard time figuring out how to get around.
The girls 6th grade science teacher, Maggie Bolado was inspired to get the girls involved in building the app after seeing a tweet from the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. She says she simply asked which students were interested in learning how to build an app and these six girls came forward.
The challenge invited the interest of over 1200 applicants, but it turns out navigation for the blind was a winning idea. The girls won the Verizon challenge and were recently whisked away to meet President Obama, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Kari Byron from MythBusters for their efforts.
The girls didn’t have any coding experience themselves so a group of programmers from the MIT Media Lab helped the girls put the app together. They also showed them basic coding techniques.
One of the girls, Sandra Baquero, said she was more encouraged now to get into coding. “I really liked the code part. I didn’t really know what that was before. I just wanted to sign up for something fun,” she said.
According to their teacher, the girls did extensive research with a particular blind classmate and his mobility coach to determine how to make the app most effective and understand the struggles he faces in navigating without eyesight.
The app doesn’t help the blind avoid obstacles, but it does give them turn by turn directions, thus saving them time preparing for how to get to class at the beginning of every new school year.
The app was made in Java and should be available in Google Play on June 1st.