Teen recognized for app that helps locate people in disasters

Feb 4, 2020

Some day, emergency responders may be able to get help finding people trapped in a disaster with an app designed by a local teenager.

The "Hover oveR" app, designed by Williamsville East High School freshman Vidya Shah, uses drone imaging to help emergency responders identify and reach people in need during natural disasters.

Shah says she came up with the idea after seeing the wildfires in California, and the Amazon last year. But she says the app is just a prototype.

Shah answers questions from reporters after Rep. Brian Higgins announced that she had won the Congressional App Challenge in New York's 26th District
Credit Chris Caya/WBFO News

"There is many more improvements that could be done, such as expanding it to animals. There are many animals killed during these wildfires," Shah said.  

It may be a prototype, but it's far enough along that the 14-year-old is a winner in the 2019 Congressional App Challenge, an annual event for middle and high school students nationwide. Her entry can be viewed here.

Shah and other winners will receive a $250 gift card and they are invited to an official demonstration of their app in Washington D.C., next month. She was presented a certificate for her work at Williamsville East Monday by Rep. Brian Higgins.
"We are proud to have Vidya represent Western New York in our nation's capital and we hope her experience inspires more students in Western New York to participate next year."  

Higgins says the goal of the Congressional App Challenge is to promote STEM learning through hands-on engagement. Locally, seven students from six different schools entered the contest.

The Congressional App Challenge begins in June with a submission deadline of Nov. 1. Higgins encourages local students to participate.  Learn more about the submission process here.