Dozens of high school students from around central Ohio gathered at Capital University Nov. 16 and 17 for a competition that challenged them to create smartphone applications to address the opioid epidemic.

The competition, 2018 TECHCORPShack, paired the high school students with Capital students, professors, alumni and technology professionals.

Organized annually by Columbus-based educational organization TECH CORPS and sponsored by AT&T, the competition was held simultaneously in Columbus, Dayton and Zanesville.

The event aims to give high school students opportunities to learn about computer science in a hands-on environment, said Marci Howdyshell, TECH CORPS Central Ohio regional manager.

“We put the teams together very carefully, making sure that each team has students from different schools, different grade levels and different levels of experience,” she said. “Our goal is for students to meet someone new and for everybody to learn something new.”

During the competition, Capital student volunteers and technology professionals from several local companies served as mentors to introduce the students to technology-related majors and career paths.

This year was the first time Capital hosted the competition, which came about through a referral from an alumnus, said Paula Federico, associate professor and department chairwoman of mathematics, computer science and physics at Capital.

“We’re looking, always, for ways to engage with the community, so this was the perfect opportunity,” Federico said.

About 75 Columbus-area high school students participated in the event, working in teams of five in Capital’s Convergent Media Center and Blackmore Library.

One team of students, competing under the name Thirteen, developed an app that would provide a way people could access resources from home to be informed of how to react to people during drug overdose, and be able to view helpful resource centers that are nearby.

Team GuardRail developed an app to help those trying to resist their drug temptation to connect with others by sharing their success with their support group.

Another team, Liberation, created an app to provide anonymous chatting between two people, enabling calling and sharing of testimonies so people could know they aren’t alone in their journey to overcome addiction.

“It’s really fun to explore your different options of how to solve different problems that you really don’t normally think about,” said Rho’besi Asapokhai, a Gahanna Lincoln High School senior. “The opioid crisis, I don’t really have a personal effect of it, but I could do something about it.”

Whitehall-Yearling High School junior Amy Hernandez-Paz said she enjoyed meeting her peers from other schools, developing mentor relationships with industry professionals and working as part of a team to solve technical challenges.

“When we make the app, sometimes we get bugs, we get errors. It’s hard finding the error,” she said. “When we make websites, it’s hard, too, because, there’s like thousands of characters (in the coding).”

Hilliard High School senior Parth Datar said he learned about the opioid crisis during his junior year when his Advanced Placement language-arts class read author Sam Quinones’ “Dreamland,” which explores the epidemic’s effect on Ohio.

Datar said he enjoyed working with students from other schools, using technology to identify solutions.

“We divided our app into certain screens, so everyone manages a certain screen,” he said. “We have an overarching theme, because I think one of the most important things in anything, really, is an overarching concept and something that really ties the whole thing together.”

Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler, Capital alumni and several industry professionals judged the students’ work. The winning teams from Columbus, Dayton and Zanesville will compete in a final event to be held Dec. 8 at Capital.

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