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Sharon Middle Schoolers Are National Finalists In Verizon App Challenge

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A team of middle schoolers from Sharon, MA have come up with a mobile app concept and are representing Massachusetts on the national platform. Their app idea, EMPOWER, helps people with autism find jobs. Out of nearly eighteen hundred applications, the team from Sharon was selected as “Best in Massachusetts” and then “Best in the Northeast”, making it one of the top-24 app ideas in the country. They are currently in the running to be selected as the “Best in the Nation”. They are also in the fifth place out of hundreds of teams in the United States in the Verizon App Challenge “Fan Favorite” competition.  With your help, they can win. If they win, they will work with MIT to make their app idea a reality.  To help their app idea come to life and assist those with autism, send a text message MPOWER to 22333!

The Verizon App Challenge invites teams of middle and high schoolers to design an app concept. The team of 7th graders from Sharon Middle School – Rohan Bommaraju, Amelia Dasari, Shreesh Nalatwad, Sri Vishnu Piratla and Tanvi Shah – came up with their idea after seeing how all of the community members who are trying to help people with autism find jobs are not working together. For them, this is an intensely personal challenge as one of the team member’s sibling was diagnosed with autism at a young age. Hopefully, this app will be able to help all people with autism live more independent lives.

In 2015, $268 Billion was spent supporting people with autism, 75% of which goes to support adults. Eighty percent of adults with autism are unemployed and rely on some kind of support. Though people with autism are very talented – some are even model employees – businesses are not aware of the abilities of this untapped workforce. However, over the last few years we have seen encouraging news about companies changing their work culture and practices and hiring people on the spectrum. From large multinationals like Microsoft and Dell to small businesses like restaurants and local coffee shops, people around the nation are hiring people with autism to great success but much more can be done.

EMPOWER solves this problem by serving 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, see the work environment in the app and then apply for jobs. EMPOWER also recommends jobs. For example, 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 want 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. With EMPOWER, these middle schoolers want to change our community so that we can learn to accept people with autism and use their talents. They are working towards a world where all people with autism can find jobs, contribute back to the society and live their lives with dignity and self-respect.

To find out more about the Sharon Middle School team’s app idea, visit the team’s website: www.sciencesquad.net. To find out more about the Verizon App Challenge, visit their website at: https://appchallenge.tsaweb.org. Please do not forget to vote for Empower by sending a text message MPOWER to 22333. Voting ends on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2017. (*Standard text messaging rates may apply). 

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