N.J. teen Adhya Khare and her high school partner win Congressman Frank Pallone’s 2019 Congressional Challenge

Adhya Khare, 17, and her high school partner Serena Zeng on Jan. 6, won Rep. Frank Pallone’s 2019 Congressional App Challenge for high school students in New Jersey’s Sixth Congressional District.

Their app, “myBus,” improves communication in school bus systems, including communication between students, parents, school officials and bus drivers.

 Pallone (D-N.J.), the founder and erstwhile co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, who has served in Congress since 1988 and chairs the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee, in congratulating Khare and Zeng, for their winning app, said that “the Congressional App Challenge is an important platform for students to showcase their technical and creative skills. It’s inspiring to see young people create apps that are useful in their communities.”

The Congressional App Challenge is an annual competition that highlights the value of computer science and STEM education by encouraging high school students to learn how to code through the creation of their own apps. Entries to the competition in New Jersey’s Sixth District were assessed by a panel of local experts on several criteria, including the demonstrated knowledge of coding and programming skills, as well as the quality and implementation of their ideas.

As a winning app in the contest, Khare and Zeng’s “myBus” will be displayed on the Congressional App Challenge website and on a digital display in the Capitol Building.

 In an interview with India Abroad, the Mumbai-born, Edison, N.J.-raised Khare, asked how she got involved in taking this app challenge, said, “I go to the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Technologies, and as the name suggests, this school includes an extensive STEM curriculum.”

She continued: “As part of the curriculum, all students are required to complete a capstone project in our senior year, which entails designing and making an innovation from conception to actualization, and ‘myBus,’ was my capstone project,” Khare explained, and “upon reviewing the idea of the product, my electrical engineering teacher, Mr. Enzo Paterno, told us to submit the idea to the Congressional App Challenge. He believed it was a worthy contender, so we submitted the app in November of 2019.”

As to what made the ‘myBus’ app so special that made it a winner, she said that “it aims to instill better communication between students, parents, school officials and bus drivers. It includes a tracker and a mobile application and the tracker will be a device that the bus driver can place on their school bus which transmits the GPS locations of the vehicle. The ‘myBus’ mobile app allows students and parents to monitor the location of their bus and receive alerts from the driver in case an alternative mode of transportation would be required to get to school.”

Khare said, “For instance, on a snowy day, a school bus may face extra delays. With ‘myBus’ app, a student can go to their stop when they see that the bus is approaching the stop, rather than waiting in the cold for a long period of time. Also, a bus driver can send out notifications from his/her app to students, school officials, and parents of the delay. Furthermore, ‘myBus’ eliminates anxiety on the side of parents and school officials concerning students arriving home if there is a delay because they would be able to track the location of the bus on their phone.”

Khare said, “Most days, catching the bus becomes an ordeal rather than an easy experience. Because I go to the Academy, buses to the school usually have 6-8 stops at different places in the same town. In the morning, our group bus chat is buzzing non-stop with everyone wondering where the bus is. People not on the bus wait outside while peers on the bus are trying to sleep. It ends in a situation where no one is truly at ease. ‘myBus’ is intended to solve this.”

She reiterated that the app “is a two-part innovation-- the tracker box and the mobile app. Through the ‘myBus’ tracker device, the GPS coordinates of the bus are determined by the Arduino and sent to a cloud intermediary which is retrieved from the ‘myBus’ mobile application. The user will then be able to view the location of the bus on his/her app and receive alerts. ‘myBus’ is coded in Swift programming language and is currently an IOS-based app.”

As to whether she intended to replicate her app in other parts of New Jersey and also ultimately across the country, she said, “Currently, ‘myBus’ is only in the prototype stage. We are implementing the finishing touches for version 1 and are in the processes of applying for a provisional patent.”

But, Khare, added, “We hope to find investors for this project, so we may develop it more professional and have it implemented in the whole of New Jersey, over time. In the future, it would be incredible to implement ‘myBus’ in the whole of the country.”

Her parents, Akhilesh and Vishakha Khare hail from Uttar Pradesh and Mumbai respectively, and her dad is the Chief Technology Officer for Israel Discount Bank in New York while her mom is a homemaker and a professional makeup artist.

Asked if she had any siblings, Khare said, “None, unless you count my dog, Cocoa.”

As to her future plans, she said, “I hope to become a technological journalist, and if anyone were to ask me which publication I love reading the most, I wouldn’t hesitate in answering ‘Wired.’ As an aspiring journalist from a STEM high school, ‘Wired’ encapsulates the type of journalism I hope to pursue one day.”

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