By Kofi Biney and Charlotte Pope
It’s not every day that students get to create technology for a respected political figure. But at the sixth annual Carole I. Smith Technology Symposium held Thursday, three District students launched R3chdev, a mobile application they designed for Pennsylvania State Sen. LeAnna M. Washington of the Fourth District.
Juniors Stephen Pettus and Darren Davis and sophomore Francisco Castellanos presented the app to more than 200 District students and other attendees of the conference, which is held as a way to get more students interested in the technology field. The app will connect Washington with her constituents in a new and faster way while also giving information about her policies and upcoming events to the public.
“I think this technology symposium is important because on a regular basis, every young person has something in their hand -- technology,” Washington said.
“My goal is to make them know that we can use these things for other things than listening to music and playing games. It can be an educational tool for them.”
Pettes, Davis, and Castellanos said they became interested in working with technology through Pennsylvania MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement), which is administered at Temple University. MESA, which runs afterschool programs, Saturday academies, and summer camps, is a nationally recognized program that operates in nine states – including Pennsylvania -- to motivate and encourage students to excel in math and science.
Pettes admits that he was reluctant to give technology a try.
“It was a brand-new experience because at first I wasn’t really interested in computer science,” Pettus said.
But MESA changed his outlook and now computer science "is something I can see myself doing in the future,” he said.
The three students are actually partners in a creative software company that bears the same name as their new app.
Castellanos, who in his spare time created his own app called Dr. Love, a technology that resembles the popular E-Harmony website, said he got involved in the field because “I just like playing around making websites.”
But he said his interest was first ignited when he participated in the computer science program at his school.
“My teacher introduced us to the Java programming language, and I loved it. Then he told me about this program at Temple, I went, and they taught me apps,” he said.
Dean Harris, who is a teacher in the MESA program, said the key to getting more students interested in the field is early introduction.
“I believe one of the issues with computer science is that people get involved too late in their career," Harris said. "So by introducing technology early in high school, I think they have more of a chance of [staying with it].”
It looks as though Pettus, Davis, and Castellanos are definitely hooked. In fact, Davis has adopted a business plan for new apps. It views "every problem with the three-cubed philosophy, which is create, communicate, and connect.”