App developed by South Fayette students promotes school bus safety
A newspaper article about a child who exited a school bus at the wrong stop prompted a group of South Fayette Township School District students to action.
“We decided we wanted to do something about bus safety and allowing the parents to know where their child has gotten off the bus,” eighth-grader Parv Shrivastava explained.
The result is the BusBudE Secure Travel Notification System application, by which parents receive electronic notifications when children get on and off their buses to and from school.
The app, developed by a seven-member team of students in eighth through 12th grades, won a National Infosys Maker Award, which includes a $10,000 grant that South Fayette High School will used to create a maker space for the district.
“Our purpose was to promote safety for our elementary and intermediate school students,” senior Meghan Banerjee, the project’s director of business marketing, said.
The system involves students’ use of a near-field communications tag, which can be attached to a backpack or article of clothing.
“When they get on the bus, they scan this tag on a phone or a tablet, and it sends an SMS message to their parent or guardian saying that they have gotten on this specific bus successfully,” Megan explained. “And then the same thing happens when they get off the bus.
“It’s essentially just a precaution for the parents, especially for the younger kids,” she continued. “We have issues where they get on the wrong bus, or they get lost, or they just don’t know what to do.”
The original members of the team started on the project in Fall 2014, building the application with MIT App Inventor. The first beta test took place the following spring, with five elementary students participating.
“That test was very successful,” junior Sam Cohen, director of computer programming, said. “Every message got to where it needed to be, and all the information was correct.”
A second test involving a larger group of students also proved to be successful. And in March, another test was conducted, with 38 students in first through fifth grades.
“That was successful on the way home,” junior Joe Cavanaugh, co-project manager with Parv Shrivastava, reported. “In the morning, our app had a malfunction and didn’t work. That’s what can happen in beta tests.”
To learn the potential for an alternate use for the BusBudE, the team in October equipped visitors to South Fayette from Digital Promise’s League of Innovative Schools with tags that allowed their schedules to be texted to their cellphones.
The team hopes eventually to serve students throughout the entire school district and possibly expand to other schools as an entrepreneurship venture.
The project is part of the Emerging Innovation Leaders Program, led by Aileen Owens, South Fayette’s director of technology and innovation. Other team members are junior Nick Wilke, freshman Vinay Pedapati and eighth-grader Anish Thangavelu.