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9th grader creates award-winning app for disasters

Congressman Higgins came to congratulate her
Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 03, 2020

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — A local high school student has developed a new app that could save lives. Vidya Shah, 14, developed "HoverOver" an app that helps first responders identify people who might be in danger.

"The inspiration I had for this app was basically the fires in California and the Amazon...I was like why not have a way to make the response time from first responders to people in danger quicker," said Shah.

Here's how it works. She programs a drone to take photos at disaster sites and locate people who may be in danger. Those photos are then sent to first responders so that they can easily find and help those in need.

"This could be the difference between life and death," said Shah.

The Williamsville East Freshman submitted this video for a national competition called the Congressional App Challenge and won. Her work earned her a nod from Congressman Brian Higgins.

"It's to promote STEM learning...this is a recognition of the importance of this kind of education," said Congressman Higgins.

She's been coding since the 5th grade with a push from her father, who manages The Coder School in East Amherst.

"I don't like to code just for the sake of solving math problems...I like to get a solution out of it," said Shah.

Though she does not know what she wants to be when she grows up, Shah hopes to inspire other young children to code, specifically girls.

"The gap between the number of men working in this field is humungous," said Shah.

"There's a huge number of jobs unfilled, so we really want girls to be going into coding and STEM because that's where the future lies, said her mother Sanchayita Shah, who also manages The Coder School.

Her prize is a $250 Amazon gift card and a trip to Washington D.C. on March 24, to show her app to federal lawmakers.