- Associated Press - Monday, February 20, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Paul Winters buys pizza for his grandson Jared on Friday nights - “provided he’s been good.” This past Friday, Jared Winters most certainly will have gotten a pizza. Winters is one of five Capital Day School eighth-graders to win a national app design competition sponsored by Verizon.

On Feb. 14, the winning team - consisting of Winters, Jill Jacobs, Olivia Moore, Ana Razavi and Diksha Satish - were presented with a $20,000 check from Verizon and tickets to Orlando, Florida, where they will go in June to present their app after working on it with engineers at MIT’s Media Lab in coming months.

Titled “Waste Free America,” the app alerts homeless shelters and soup kitchens when restaurants in a 10-mile radius have leftover food available for pickup.

Winters says he was familiar with the potential for waste at local pizza chains from his Friday night pizza habit. When he and his classmates visited Chicago last year, the seed for “Waste Free America” was planted. “Walking around, we saw all of these homeless people,” said teammate Jill Jacobs. “Living in Kentucky, you aren’t as exposed to that.”

The students had a “soft spot” in their hearts for one particular homeless man they passed each morning after breakfast, said Myron Moore, Olivia Moore’s father and a chaperone on the field trip to Chicago. At the end of their visit, the students had the idea of bringing him leftovers from breakfast. “He was very thankful,” said Moore. “That may have made some influence on them.”

“He seemed nice,” said Winters. “But people would go by and treat him like an animal.”

When Audrey Bebensee’s eighth-grade class brainstormed app ideas for the Verizon competition a year later, the Chicago experience was still on their minds. “We wanted to help our community,” said Diksha Satish.

A visit to a Frankfort women’s shelter helped validate their idea that such organizations might benefit from receiving food that would otherwise go to waste. “We went to the women’s shelter and asked about the app idea,” said Olivia Moore. “They said, ‘Yeah, it would totally help us.’”

From there, the students submitted a video and essay detailing the app design. On its way to becoming one of just eight national winners out of 1,800 submissions, the design first won best in Kentucky, thereby eliminating Capital Day School’s other team from competition early on.

That team, consisting of eighth-graders Jack Lynch, Claire Pinkston and Layla Tahanasab, as well as sixth-grader Lilia Smithson and seventh-grader Adnan Shaik, designed an app that helped hospital-bound children connect with one another and play video games.

Lynch, who has attended Capital Day School since kindergarten, feels nothing but pride for his school. “I’m happy for them,” he said. “It’s a rarity at such a small school.”

Capital Day School, an independent school founded in 1955, has only 120 students in its entire preschool through eighth-grade program. “We focus on teaching kids how to think and be independent learners,” said Headmaster Tim Corkran. “It produces things like this.”


Information from: The State Journal, https://www.state-journal.com

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