Quick -- think back to when you were 12 years old: What was your biggest accomplishment? Mine was probably making a friend of mine laugh so hard in the school cafeteria that milk came out of his nose. That's why when I heard the story of Arjun Kumar, the boy who won the 2012 MIT App Inventor international competition in the K-8 division, I was blown away.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Arjun and see what this whiz kid is up to a year after releasing his blue ribbon app, Ez School Bus Locator, into the wild. In our email interview, we talked about the app, his friends and family's reaction to him winning the competition, and his new project. Arjun was incredibly polite, very articulate, and a real inspiration.
My interview with Arjun
TechRepublic: How old were you when you created Ez School Bus Locator?
Arjun: I was 12 when I created Ez School Bus Locator (in December last year).
TechRepublic: For those who haven't seen the app yet, give us a quick rundown of what it does.
Arjun: My app helps parents (both with smartphones and ordinary phones) to:
- View the location (live) of their ward's school bus on a map
- Check whether their ward is present inside the school bus
- Know when (distance and time) the school bus will reach home
TechRepublic: That's awesome! How did you come up with the idea?
Arjun: Once, due to heavy rain, I was very late to reach home from school, and I found my parents worried. That is when I thought of developing a solution for this problem. Hence, my app -- Ez School Bus Locator. I first developed an app that, when it receives a message in a specific format, sends the location details to the one who sent the message. With updates day-by-day, it became a full-fledged live school bus location tracker that can also track the presence of the child inside the bus.
TechRepublic: And I understand you created the app using MIT's App Inventor. How did you get interested in App Inventor?
Arjun: I basically do a lot of research on the web to know about the latest trends and news related to technology. I got interested in MIT App Inventor since it is one of the very few powerful programs for developing mobile apps.
TechRepublic: Are you sure you're 13? I'm kidding. That's great. I sure was not researching the latest technology trends when I was your age. What did your friends think when you told them about the idea and then went on to develop and release the app?
Arjun: My friends were EXCITED when they heard the idea for the first time! They were very much PROUD when they got the news of my app winning the MIT App Inventor contest.
TechRepublic: How about your parents? Is either of them involved in technology fields?
Arjun: Neither of my parents is directly involved in programming. My mom likes designing, and she helped me with ideas on the user interface. My dad is in the e-learning field, and he supported me when I needed some technical help.
TechRepublic: Now that the app has been available for about nine months, what has been the response to Ez School Bus Locator?
Arjun: Today, the number of downloads (in the Google Play Store and the Amazon Store) is not much because of the lack of awareness. What excites me is the number of people who download my Source Code (freely available on the MIT App Inventor Gallery) crossed 2,000 this week. I also get excited when others who are doing Computer Science Engineering from my country [India] and in other parts of the world come to meet me (or call or write to me) to discuss about the logic of its working.
TechRepublic: What are you working on today? Another app?
Arjun: I am currently working on a women and teens safety app. This app helps women and teens in getting assistance when in danger by sending SOS messages to preset phone numbers (of their guardians and friends) and sharing their location details with them as well as with the community (volunteers who have this app installed in their mobile devices) who are near the vicinity of the incident.
TechRepublic: I have to say, Arjun, you are a pretty amazing young man. Do you have any advice for other young people interested in computer science and app development?
Arjun: My advice to other young people is this: Look for problems around you, and get inspired from them. You'll see a lot of opportunities to use your (own) skills to make this world a better place to live!
If you're interested in learning more about Arjun and his very cool apps, check out his website: LateraLogics.
William J Francis began programming computers at age eleven. Specializing in embedded and mobile platforms, he has more than 20 years of professional software engineering under his belt, including a four year stint in the US Army's Military Intelligence Corps. Throughout his career William has published numerous technical articles, as well as the occasional short story.