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Students submit ‘Say It’ app to national Verizon App Challenge

Photo by Alexandra Ting

Written by Jenna Marvet

Juniors Sophie Krylova, Ariel Pan, Lauren Tan, Sarah Tan and Jady Tian are working to help everyone “Say It” with their alternative Siri app. The app idea works for people with speech impediments, strong accents and other speech problems that make it difficult to use the pre-programmed software in smartphones.

The team brainstormed the idea for the app after learning about the national Verizon App Challenge through the Research Science and Invention Club on campus. Verizon challenges both middle and high school students to create an original app idea, submitted in the form of both an essay and a video about the idea.

Krylova initiated the creation of the team, sparking interest in her friends and peers. “I was interested in this challenge, but I did not know how to get involved,” Tian said. “Meanwhile, Sophie formed a team and asked me if I wanted to join. I really liked her idea for the app.” Krylova recruited the other members to work together to solidify the app idea and create the necessary publicity video for the contest.

The group was inspired by the struggles of the innovators’ peers at Gunn. “We saw students who had trouble using their phones,” Krylova said. “Siri does not understand a lot of people with physical disabilities, like one of our classmates who has cerebral palsy.”

Senior Melis Diken, who helped the group by answering a questionnaire about her difficulty using Siri technology, believes the app will be helpful for people with similar struggles. “While there are apps similar to the ‘Say It’ app, they tend to be expensive,” Diken said. “It is very nice that this app is free so it is not an extra expense for a beneficial tool that can help many people.”

Users will be able to record themselves saying a phrase, save it and type in whatever command—such as “open maps,” “text mom” or “open music”—they wish to use. “We want to make it easier for people to use their phones based on their needs,” Lauren Tan said.

The app idea has already won the statewide and regional competitions—which included winning high schools in 11 other states—and is now competing against other high schools for the national award. As state winners, they are also entered into the Verizon App Challenge Fan Favorite Award. The prize for either award consists of a $15,000 grant to make the app a reality and enhance Gunn’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program. “It would be really difficult to develop the app if we do not win, since none of us know how to code,” Sarah Tan said.

The girls have been through a long process in the contest. “There are a lot of tiers we had to get through,” Krylova said. “If we win in the nation, we will develop our idea into a working app and present the product to the sponsors at a final conference in Tennessee.”

The sponsors of the program include Verizon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Technology Student Association, some of which have already listened to a web presentation about the app. “It feels really good to see adults and tech experts pay attention to our idea,” Tian said.

While it has been an arduous series of steps, the group has high hopes for the project. “We want to actually see the app work,” Lauren Tan said. “We have a vision for what it will look like and are excited to see it come to life.”

Anyone can vote to support the app in the Fan Favorite Awards by texting SAYIT1 to the number 22333 until Jan. 31.

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