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February 10, 2014

New Albany High School students really apply themselves

Group of juniors place in national contest for app concept

NEW ALBANY — It’s no secret that kids today are always plugged into their phones, so it should make sense that a group of millenials would be the masterminds behind designing new applications, or apps.

That’s exactly what a national contest hosted by Verizon Wireless intended, yielding more than 770 entries from middle and high school teams across the country — including New Albany High School, which won Best in State.

The contest, called the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, called for students to develop an app concept that would address a problem or issue in the community.

Martin Wright, NAHS engineering teacher, sponsored a team of six junior-level students — Luke Rhoades, Ben Fouts, Kunal Bhanushali, Kent Vuong, Franci Burton and Evan Scrivner — who created the idea for their app, Efficiency Router.

“It’s sort of like a GPS, but not so much for telling which roads to take but telling you which order to do your errands in,” said Rhoades, who was the team leader for the project.

App users would enter a set of destinations, and the program would find the most efficient routes.

The idea was aimed at addressing both the energy and health categories of the contest.

“The idea is to save energy resources in our economy because we use a lot of gasoline and things to go out of our way to do errands on the weekend,” Bhanushali said. “So the idea was to put all of that in a list and figure out the most energy-efficient way to get all of those things done.”

Students began working in October by brainstorming ideas that would best meet the contest criteria.

“We had really good ideas — every single one of us did — and picking the best one was the hardest part,” Rhoades said.

Once they chose a concept, the team worked on designing the look of the app when opened on the phone and also worked out details. For example, users could store frequent destinations as “favorites” or choose a certain destination as the last one.

Though the team didn’t place Best in Region — which would have allowed them to pair with engineers to help make the app idea a reality — the students still feels accomplished, especially considering they started planning late.

“It’s an amazing feeling to work with an amazing group of students,” Wright said. “They’re willing to jump in and tackle whatever is put in front of them.”

The students agreed that placing was “validating.”

“It was awesome,” Burton said. “When Kunal told me, I freaked out a little bit.”

Because all of the students are juniors, they said they plan on entering the contest again next year.

“We’re definitely shooting for regionals, at least,” Rhoades said.

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