Introducing the 2015 LearnServe Innovation Award Winners
The person next to you on the Metro sneezes. Was it allergies? The flu? Something worse? As the scenarios race through your mind, they boil down to one question: Will I get sick too?
Now there’s an app for that.
Meet Rohan Suri, founder of kTrace, a tool that is changing how we fight epidemics. The primary tool used to fight epidemics — think Ebola, measles, or flu — is to identify and isolate all contacts of an infected individual. But can you really remember everyone you saw over three weeks, before you begin exhibiting any symptoms? And what about the strangers you encountered, but can never identify?
The app kTrace uses Bluetooth technology to record who you come into contact with, and for how long. When a user reports feeling unwell, patients and medical professionals can authorize kTrace to send a notification to all contacted individuals so they can monitor their own health, and seek immediate medical attention before they infect others. (The app is available for Android here.)
Rohan is a winner of the 2015 LearnServe Innovation Award (Fairfax County category). He represents one of the 46 student teams led by LearnServe Fellows from across the DC Metro area who pitched their social venture ideas at the 6th Annual LearnServe Panels and Venture Fair on Thursday, April 23 at the Maret School.
Winners of the Innovation Award receive pro bono professional consultations from professionals at Deloitte, ICF International, M&T Bank, and Social Driver.
MEET THE WINNERS
DC | Winner, DC Public and Charter Schools Category
Jamese Mangum, Black Girls Love STEM Too
Washington Math Science Technology Public Charter High School
Jamese looks at the lack of African American women in the STEM field, and realizes that unless we intervene early in the pipeline — at the middle and high school level — this pattern will continue to repeat itself. Black Girls Love STEM Too offers a tiered solution: established professionals will share their experiences with the young women at her school; these high school students will in turn visit elementary and middle schools to inspire, teach, and mentor the girls there. They will share the stories of successful African American women in STEM, and host career fairs to expose students to potential career opportunities.
DC | Runner-Up, DC Public and Charter Schools Category
Brendan Epton, District Grinding
E.L. Haynes Public Charter School
Brendan watches his peers struggling to find jobs, and discouraged by a staggering unemployment rate: 14.2% for young people ages 16-24. The equivalent figure is 21.4% for African Americans. He realizes that DC youth who need jobs need two things: a) the skills to find jobs, and b) the people who can help them secure those jobs. District Grinding teaches students how to fill out job applications, dress for interviews, and communicate in interviews. Already he has lined up representatives from Safeway and Target to meet with him and his peers.
MD | Winner, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County Public Schools
Chimey Sonam, Parallels Project
Early in Chimey’s childhood, interaction with peers from outside her cultural bubble opened her eyes and broadened her perspective. Yet she sees too many students in her county attending schools and living in neighborhoods that are racially and socio-economically homogenous. The Parallels Project will bring together middle school students from different backgrounds, to create a space where they can embrace diversity and connect with peers outside their comfort zones.
MD | Runner-Up, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County Public Schools
Ishaan Parikh, KAST: Advanced
VA | Winner, Fairfax County Public Schools
Rohan Suri, kTrace
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Concerned about recent outbreaks of Ebola, measles, and flu, Rohan wondered whether technology might empower ordinary citizens to slow the spread of disease. Most epidemics are mapped through contact tracing — asking each infected individual to remember who he or she has had recent contact with, and then isolating those individuals. kTrace uses bluetooth technology to facilitate this process, alerting known acquaintances who might have been overlooked, as well as random strangers that were in close proximity, that they might have been exposed to the disease.
VA | Runner-up, Fairfax County Public Schools
Raman Khanna, S2S Nutrition
For Raman, it all boils down to nutrition and healthy choices. He has grown increasingly concerned about the obesity epidemic raging in the United States: 1 in 3 kids are overweight or obese; they are more likely to be obese as adults; and they face a significantly greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Fairfax County’s Program of Studies touches on the importance of exercise in its 7th and 8th grade standards, but barely touches nutrition — not even to explain the county’s own All Star Lunch Program or the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines. S2S offers a unique student-to-student approach to nutrition education, helping elementary and middle school students make healthy choices.
IND | Winner, Independent Schools
Gaia Jinsi, GirlsGoLearn
Girls coming from all-girls schools are 3 times as likely to become engineers, score up to 50 points higher on the SAT, and are more likely to pursue graduate studies than girls in co-educational environments. Girls in co-educational environments, therefore, may not be receiving the education that they need or deserve. GirlsGoLearn plans to partner with DC public and charter schools to bring safe, all-girls learning environments to DC girls through weekend and after-school academic and enrichment opportunities.
IND | Runner-up, Independent Schools
Ryan Hunt, Easy BAC
French International School
Every day, nearly 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. In 2013, 10,076 people died in drunk driving crashes, and 290,000 were injured. For Ryan, these statistics are personal: several months ago, four high school students — including one on Ryan’s swim team — were hit by a drunk driver while their car was pulled over on the side of the highway. Easy BAC is a smartphone app that assesses blood alcohol content, and lets users know whether they should be driving or not. Users enter their gender, weight, type and number of drinks, and over what period of time, and the calculator estimates blood alcohol levels. An alarm function allows users to set a time to be reminded to use the calculator. The app also points users to alternative transportation options available, offering a simple and easy approach to avoiding drunk driving.