Out of (Drum) Line : Aquatic Hitchhikers

Out of (Drum) Line : Aquatic Hitchhikers

By Michael Boo

Liam Conboy a bass drummer for Minnesota’s Eden Prairie High School. He’s been a percussionist since the age of 10 and a computer programmer for the past four years.

Last year, he created a program in JavaScript as a science fair project that would locate where students live, using that population density to help determine bus route distribution. The program pulled up a map of the area and placed points where bus stops should be. The school principal heard about the project and contacted him to express that he thought it would be useful for busing students to the 3,000-student campus.

After the school science fair, Liam had to halt development of the program in order to focus on his schoolwork. To further develop the program, he would have had to consider variables of population density, the number of buses needed for successful implementation, the exact number of students on each bus, the routing of the buses and up-to-date alterations in the bus routings, a time schedule, and so much more, stating, “I decided the problem I was trying to solve was too complex for someone like me who has no professional experience. 

“However, I learned a lot about how to apply my knowledge of programming to the real world. I am very glad I had the experience, and I’m now working on an app with other students in my Advance Placement Computer Science Class that we’ll enter in the annual Verizon Innovative App Challenge.”

According to the Verizon Innovative App Challenge website, “The goal of the Challenge is to increase student interest and knowledge in STEM subjects and mobile technology through an engaging and empowering learning experience.” STEM is an acronym for “science, technology, engineering and math.” The challenge is open to students in middle schools and senior high schools, each team working with a faculty advisor.

Students are to consider a host of factors applying to marketplace need and viability and a panel of STEM educators and corporate innovators judge their efforts. Winning teams from the top four middle schools and top four high schools earn cash grants, Samsung tablets, and virtual support to help them further refine their apps, plus an invitation to present their developed apps in person at the National Technology Student Association Conference.

The app Liam is working on is named InvasiveX. Its intention is to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species between lakes due to attachment of such species to boats and boat trailers. According to the Minnesota Department of National Resources, “Invasive species are species that are not native to Minnesota and cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Minnesota waters are threatened by aquatic invasive species,” which generally are transported between waterways, but are sometimes released from home aquariums or water gardens. Aquarium life sometimes carries diseases that can kill native aquatic species and invasive plants not only clog waterways, but can bring boat propellers to a complete stop.

A user of InvasiveX would create an account that contains information about their favorite lakes and what lakes they have recently boated. The app will then warn them if they have been to a lake that has been reported to have invasive species, or if one of their favorite lakes is now plagued by invasive species. The program then provides a map of the lakes, each marked with the current risk level.

The app is still a work in progress, but Liam expresses gratitude that he now has the ability to surround himself with others working towards the same goal, not unlike the experience of working with others in his drum line who are all focused on perfecting the line’s competition program.

For more info regarding the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, please visit the following website.