An app created by a trio of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology students to help kids with autism may someday be deployed in Fairfax County’s special education classrooms.
Sophomores Soham Jain, Rohan Kotla and Samvrit Rao have already earned recognition from Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-10) for RoutineRemind, an app designed to help parents and kids keep track of their schedules.
RoutineRemind was the 10th District’s winner in the 2022 Congressional App Challenge, Wexton announced on Dec. 22. The annual competition aims to encourage science, technology, engineering and math education by inviting students from across the country to develop and submit their own apps.
The 2022 contest drew over 500 submissions, a new record, according to organizers.
“I was so impressed by not only their remarkable technical skills in designing this winning app, but also their ingenuity and care in developing a way to help kids with autism and their families,” Wexton said in a statement, congratulating the TJ students.
A big congratulations to #VA10's Congressional App Challenge winners, team RoutineRemind—Rohan, Samvrit, & Soham!
I was so impressed by their creation of a scheduling app to aid kids with social and cognitive impairments like autism.
Bravo, RoutineRemind! You've made us proud. pic.twitter.com/Q6stdx5rQ2
— Rep. Jennifer Wexton (@RepWexton) December 22, 2022
In joint comments to FFXnow, Soham, Rohan and Samvit said they have regularly worked together on school projects and share an interest in “the intersection between computer science and biology.”
Seeing the challenge as an opportunity to put their tech and teamwork skills to the test, the students turned to personal experience when brainstorming ideas for an app.
In a demonstration video, Rohan said he has a younger brother with autism and has always been interested in finding ways to improve the lives of people with autism and other cognitive disabilities.
His brother sometimes struggles to remember his schedule, leading him to frequently ask for reminders. Individuals with autism often find comfort in routine, but many also experience executive functioning challenges, affecting their ability to plan or focus.
“After surveying the special needs community in [our] area, we found that this is a mutual problem across children with autism, since many of them are schedule-oriented,” the students told FFXnow. “Given the prevalence of the problem, we wanted to develop a simple, adaptable, and user-friendly schedule and reminder app to help those with social and cognitive impairments.” Read More
A Texas-based technology education company has branched out into Vienna.
The school iCode launched its first Virginia franchise in the town earlier this month and is now hosting camps on game building, robotics and other tech skills for students out on break for the winter.
Located in a former Apple Federal Credit Union at 419A Maple Avenue East, iCode Vienna will get a grand opening at 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 10.
“As parents living and working in Fairfax County, we saw a need to provide our children earlier exposure to technical education,” franchise co-owner David Dilly said in a statement. “…We realize children love gaming, so why not provide a positive outlet for their desires by learning to understand how their favorite games work?”
Founded in 2015 by Abid Abedi, iCode has close to 50 franchises around the U.S., along with two in Asia. All of the locations follow a curriculum developed by the company’s corporate office in Frisco, Texas.
The Vienna campus is the first of several planned for Virginia, specifically in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Next up, a school in Burke will open in spring 2023, according to Dilly.
In addition to camps, the school offers three tiers of programs, from one designed for flexibility where students build their own video game to classes focused on specific science, technology, engineering and math topics.
The most popular is a “Belt” program, which is intended to provide a “comprehensive” education in STEM subjects and the arts, iCode Vienna Director Toni Escobedo says. Covering ages 5 through 15, the program teaches a total of seven programming languages with each course building on the previous one.
Escobedo says iCode tailors its class and camp offerings to students’ interests, grouping classes based on age and skill level. The school is equipped with tablets, desktops, drones, robotics, 3D printers, an e-sports gaming lounge and more, with no outside technology needed.
She says the school distinguishes itself from other coding programs by emphasizing the full-time involvement of instructors in all classes and incorporating “soft skills” like project management and collaboration into the curriculum.
“These skills help students succeed not only academically but in their relationships and future careers,” she told FFXnow.
A nearly 40,000-square-foot space center is coming soon to Reston.
The project is the brainchild of Interstellar Dreams, a nonprofit organization by Robin McDougal, a former educator at Fairfax County Public Schools.
The organization hopes to “spark and nurture the next generation of STEM leaders with a focus on aerospace,” according to event organizers. The business also plans to open its first space center location at George Mason University’s College of Science.
The centers will include training and simulations through virtual and in-person methods created by LED walls and technology. The experience is intended to prepare emerging and existing professionals to meet the demand for space workers.
A press conference is planned on Monday (Aug. 29) at 8:45 a.m., following a public viewing of NASA’s launch of the Artemis I “Return to the Moon” mission at Reston Station.
The space agency is poised to launch its most powerful rocket ever for a test flight on a 42-day voyage around the moon. The launch begins at 8 a.m., and the viewing takes place in the plaza of Reston Station (1906 Reston Metro Plaza).
“As NASA prepares to send astronauts to the moon and beyond, Interstellar Dream’s event underscores the need for talent for the booming space exploration industry,” a spokesperson for Interstellar Dreams wrote in the statement.
A spokesperson for the company told FFXnow that more details about the center will be released after the viewing event.
“This region has a lot of space business [and] is ripe for having more emphasis on training a workforce,” the spokesperson said.
The event will be attended by Vint Cerf — one of the “fathers of the internet” — as well as Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, and other local officials. Cerf will discuss the need for an inter-galaxy internet.