East TN teen uses programming, music skills to develop app that could save lives in the classroom

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Thirteen-year-old Julianna Gallup is home schooled, but she still wanted to do something to curb the fears of parents and students surrounding school shootings.

Before we get into the app she created, you should first know Julianna is a teenager of many talents. For five years, she’s been taking free music lessons at the Joy of Music School, fine-tuning her skills on the piano and getting better by the day.

She spends a lot of time on the keys relaxing, thinking, taking in the meaning of the melodies, but it isn’t the only keyboard where she excels.

Free programming classes spark an interest

She’s also skilled in programming. Her mother, Cynthia, also decided her daughter should take part in free computer classes offered by the nonprofit, Oak Ridge Computer Science Girls.

The program and its teachers push her to challenge herself, learn from mistakes and try again. They also encourage students to take part in competitive development, like Project CS Girls.

After learning about a competition, in which students were assigned to develop any technology on one of four societal problems: Intelligent technology, global health, bridging inequalities, and a safer world.

Julianna chose to take part in the competition and to create something that would make a safer world.

Fire Flight

For her competition entry, the teen made an app, designed to automatically alert police in the event of a school shooting.

“I know that kids and parents worry a lot about school shootings. I want to be able to help police get to schools as quickly as possible,” she said.

For her app, she earned an honorable mention in Washington D.C. as a result of her hard work.

She coded the application herself, she said, with no template to base her work off. She named it “Fire Flight,” and while it isn’t available on the app store for teachers to download as of yet, Julianna plans on developing it further and someday hopes to offer it free of charge.

“I read somewhere that it takes, on average, I believe, five minutes during any type of mass shooting for anyone to call 911. And during a school shooting, teachers have so many responsibilities because they also have to take care of their students,” she said.

The coding process is complicated, but the result could be a simple solution to help curb gun violence in schools in the future.

The frequencies of a gun shot

Through software, she programmed the demo to recognize the different frequencies of a gun shot, based on inventoried sound.

It’s such a sophisticated set of technology, she said, a dropped textbook wouldn’t trigger a 911 alert, because the frequency isn’t the same as gunfire.

Thomas Proffen, founder of Oak Ridge Computer Science Girls, said since 2017 they’ve worked with nearly 1,500 middle school girls. He’s particularly proud of Julianna’s success in D.C., because of the intent behind the software.

The concept was all hers, according to Proffen. He said they explained the rules of the competition and provided examples of what they would need to submit, but taking on an app to help schools in the worst possible time was Julianna’s vision alone.

“Just looking at the code she wrote, if you didn’t tell me who it was from, I would never, ever, guess that was a 13-year- old who did all that,” he said.

Proffen said she chose a challenging project, but her execution was thought-out and well researched.

“What I like about the competition it’s not just make an app that’s funny, it’s find a problem in society, and see how technology can solve it. I think she just embodied that, which is why I think her project made it all the way up where it was because it was really fulfilling the goals the competition has,” he added.

Life-saving technology, someday

He does believe her concept could someday soon be widely used in classrooms around the country, but there is one vital component keeping the app from being as effective as it perhaps would need to be: Resources.

He explained Julianna’s app has a finite number of gunshots for recognition. It would essentially need a wider range of sampling to more accurately detect a school shooting.

We’ll have to keep a watch for Julianna’s app to hit Google Play or the App Store.

We’ll let you know the moment it’s available for download.

To learn more about the Joy of Music school, click here.

To learn more about the Oak Ridge Computer Science Girls, click here.

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