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Sharon Middle Schoolers Are National Winners Of Verizon App Challenge

Press Release
02/16/2017

A team of 5 seventh graders (Rohan Bommaraju, Amelia Dasari, Vishnu Piratla, Tanvi Shah, Shreesh Nalatwad) from Sharon Middle School (Massachusetts) have designed an app idea, EMPOWER, for the prestigious 201617 Verizon Innovative Learning app challenge. EMPOWER app aims to create a comprehensive support system for people on the Autism spectrum find jobs easily.

After being previously declared as Best in state (among 1800 entries) and winner in the North East region, Verizon has announced that the app idea has been awarded as the "Best in Nation" which includes a grant of  $15,000 to the school to further STEM education (in addition to the $5000 grant won as "Best in state"), In-person and virtual training and support from the MIT App Inventor Group to assist the team in building and publishing their mobile app, an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2017 National TSA Conference in Orlando, Florida and Tablets for each of the winning team members and their school.

The team received citations from the State Senate and the House of Representatives. Massachusetts state senator, James E. Timilty, visited Sharon Middle School and joined the school authorities and Verizon representatives in announcing the winning team and felicitating them in a surprise school-wide assembly.

According to Verizon spokesperson, Stephanie Lee, the app was thoughtful and demonstrated a very high level of maturity, thinking and complexity from these enthusiastic and caring middle schoolers.

EMPOWER aims to serve as a platform for people with autism, businesses, employment agencies, community volunteers and the caretakers. Using EMPOWER, businesses can showcase their workplace and the accommodations they are willing to make to hire people with autism. People with autism and their caretakers can search for places they might want to work, explore the work environment in the app and then apply for jobs. EMPOWER also recommends jobs - if a potential employee works best in environments with low ambient noise, EMPOWER can help find and recommend a job that fits that criteria. EMPOWER can also be used by volunteers who would like to act as job-coaches for people with autism or help them with transportation. EMPOWER involves the entire community to help solve this problem that costs our country $260 billion annually.



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