Parents are often worried about the safety of their children whenever they are going to or coming back from school. Why is the bus late? Did my child reach safely? Did my child get on the bus? But not anymore! A 15-year-old has developed a solution in the form of an app.
Getting irritated because your school bus is stuck in a traffic jam due to heavy rains is one thing. But to reach home late, find your parents worried, and develop an app so they won’t be stressed the next time – that’s called combining innovation with care. Arjun S. is a 15-year-old student of Class 10 in Velammal Vidhyashram School in Chennai. He has developed an app that can help parents track the position of their children’s school buses whenever they want.
“I got the idea after a cyclone hit Chennai in 2012. I reached home late one day and my parents were really scared because they had no way of finding out if I was safe. I thought that if there could be a way to track school buses easily, it would be so much better for parents and school authorities. I was learning more about building apps and the android programming language at that time, and decided to find a solution,” says Arjun.
The young boy’s love for technology led to the development of LOCATERA – an app to find out where exactly a school bus is located at any given time, and to know if a particular child is there in the bus or not.
“I have been using computers since the age of two. My dad had a system and I would stack up some pillows on the chair to reach the keyboard to use some basic electronics simulation software. My parents were always careful about giving me age-appropriate tools for using the system,” he says, talking about his interest in this field.
The first app developed by Arjun was called Ez School Bus Locator. He shared it with many schools, including his own, and collected the feedback from administrators and parents about their specific requirements. “I collected the information about the schools’ basic requirements and modified the app accordingly. LOCATERA is a modified version of Ez School Bus Locator, and it came two years after the first one. Unlike other solutions that require some kind of hardware installation, all this app needs is the presence of a phone inside the bus,” he adds.
LOCATERA is basically a tri-app solution, which means three apps working together. These include the attendant, admin, and parent apps.
1. LOCATERA attendant:
This app captures the location of the bus and shares it with parents and the school if required. The bus attendant can install and keep it on his/her phone. The attendant adds all students to the app by scanning their Quick Response (QR) Code-based ID cards, using bar code scanning, as and when the students board or get off the bus. Student activities are recorded on the Cloud – to be used by schools in case of emergencies.
2. LOCATERA admin:
The admin version has to be with the administrator of the school transport system so he/she can see all the buses together, locate the position of a particular bus, get information about it, and find out which students are present in the bus at any given time.
3. LOCATERA parent:
Parents have to get their mobile numbers verified before they get access to the app. Once they are in, they can find the location of the bus by clicking on the ‘Bus on Map’ option. Alternatively, they can tap on ‘Bus Location’ and ‘Distance & Time’ options to find out the exact address of the bus and how soon the child will reach home. To find out if the child is there in the bus or not, they just have to select the ‘Child in Bus’ option. Parents who don’t have android phones can give a missed call to the attendant’s phone whenever they want the information. The LOCATERA attendant looks into the bank of registered numbers to find out which parent has called. He/she then sends an SMS with information about the child and the bus location.
Arjun used Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s programming tool called MIT App Inventor to develop LOCATERA. It is basically a programming language tool with a more graphical user interface, instead of codes.
Arjun submitted the app to ‘Google India Code to Learn Contest 2015’ and was declared the winner. He also won the MIT ‘App of the Month (Best Design)’ award in December 2012 for Ez School Bus Locator.
Among other awards, he also received the 2014 ‘National Child Award for Exceptional Achievements for Computer Technology’, which was initiated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India.
“I would like to work in the field of computer science itself, and would like to go to IIT or MIT or something like that,” says Arjun, talking about his future plans.
He also started a company named LateraLogics in 2012, which has several products including some other apps that Arjun has developed over the past three years. Currently, only the demo version of LOCATERA is available on Play Store, for all three stakeholders. Those who want to use the complete version can fill out the LOCATERA Flexi Plan Enquiry Form to receive the pricing details for that particular school. Arjun keeps receiving constant feedback from the schools that are already using it.
As he is also preparing for his board exams, Arjun has a tough time juggling his studies and his passion. “But I somehow manage it,” he says.
He also likes to play the keyboard, and is a badminton enthusiast in his free time.
“We have been supporting Arjun from a very young age…He has always been passionate about technology. We gave him the right kinds of tools from the start and he has always been serious about what he does. He does a lot of research and discusses his ideas before finalising anything. We are also in touch with the state and Central government to see how the app can be implemented all over the country. The Ez School Bus Locator version is free of cost and it is being used in more than 10 countries right now. We think it can be used in India as well,” says Arjun’s father Santhosh Kumar.
The agreement for using the app for one academic year includes a one-time activation fee (per child, per year) and a monthly maintenance fee option (per month, per child). After a successful pilot project in his school, Arjun is having discussions with other schools for implementation the same. Trial runs have been scheduled for some schools in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and other parts of the country as well.
“Look for problems around you and get inspired by them. You’ll see a lot of opportunities to make this world a better place using your own skills,” is Arjun’s advice to other youngsters like him.
You can find other details about installing the app here.
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