A WA teen’s phone app could stop you from drunk driving. It earned her a national honor | Federal State

December 12 – What impact does Advaitha Motkuri want to have in the world?

If you ask, she’ll give you a pretty simple answer.

“Definitely helping people,” says the Richland High School student proudly.

Motkuri, 15, has developed a smartphone app that can tell how drunk someone is by scanning the pupil of their eye. She hopes to make this technology available to consumers in the years to come.

Her project entitled “People’s Pupil: A Detection in Intoxication” is also recognized.

That placed her third in the overall high school category at the 2022 Mid-Columbia Science Fair, as well as second place at last spring’s Washington State Science and Engineering Fair.

Now it has been praised nationally.

“People’s Pupil” was recently named the winner of the 2022 Central Washington Congressional App Challenge, a programming competition for middle and high school students in the state’s 4th congressional district.

“I was very surprised because I didn’t expect something I submitted as a class assignment to get this far,” she said.

Motkuri even received a call and congratulations from Congressman Dan Newhouse, whose office announced the winner of the contest.

“Each year, the Congressional App Challenge recognizes the bright minds of central Washington’s students,” Newhouse said in a prepared statement. “It is important for Congress to continue supporting the next generation of leaders in STEM, computer science and coding skills. Congratulations Advaitha, I am confident that you and other central Washington students will continue to learn and grow in this field.”

Their award-winning phone app was selected by a panel of judges at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland.

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In addition to showing her app at the US Capitol Building, she will be invited to the House of Code Capitol Hill Reception in Washington DC and participate in a short computer science mentoring session with PNNL scientists.

Since 2015, the Congressional App Challenge has sought to advance computer science and STEM education through presentations and competitions. More than 40,000 students from all 50 states took part in the annual competition.

How does it work?

Drinking alcohol can cause a person’s eyes to dilate more slowly. This causes blurred vision.

The concept behind Motkuri’s application is fairly simple: by measuring the size of a person’s pupil from a series of photos, her Python code can tell with relative certainty whether someone is under the influence and whether they should avoid driving put.

The app would then open the Uber ride-sharing app and let the person ride home. If that’s not available, she said, it could connect her to a family member or friend’s number.

Motkuri said she got the idea for the project after watching drunk driving accidents on the news and reading research on the effects of alcohol on human vision.

There must be some real use for this information, she thought.

“I came up with this idea based on a phone’s facial recognition (technology). This is very new and no one thought of linking alcohol to a student, despite investigations,” she said.

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Inclusion and diversity are also key tenets of the Congressional App Challenge competition. The participants are overwhelmingly more racially, culturally and gender diverse than some of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies.

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Motkuri knows about this struggle as she is the only black woman in her advanced computer science class.

“During all the courses I attended, I was one of the very few women there,” she said. “It’s very different from my other classes, but it’s also very exciting and exciting to learn and I enjoy that.”

Motkuri’s father is a materials scientist at PNNL and her mother used to work for the school district. She said she never really got into computer programming, but learned the basics in middle school on projects that taught programming in HTML, CSS, and Java.

Regardless, she found she had a knack for it.

“I like math, but I can live without it,” she jokes.

Motkuri said she hopes PNNL scientists could help refine the app so she could release it to Android and IOS application stores for people to use.


(c) 2022 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Washington)

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