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N. Catholic students develop driving app

From left, Matt Esser, Luc Madonna, Giovanna Esposito, Veronica Muth and Chris Virostek make up a team of students from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School that recently won a “Best in State” award from the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. The students are creating an app for teen driver safety.

CRANBERRY TWP — Students at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School are aiding the creation of a phone application for driver safety.

The high school was a Best in State winner in this year's Verizon Innovative App Challenge.

Five students under the direction of Ellen Cavanaugh, CEO of Grow a Generation, a Sewickley-based organization that promotes STEM studies, created the concept for their car safety phone app, Safe Speed.

The idea for Safe Speed is that parents can use it to monitor their children's speed while driving, using a global positioning system.

Parents can program the app and connect it to their child's phone. If the child is driving over the speed limit for more than a minute, the parents get a phone message about the speeding.

“It would use data associated with that location to say if you're on a road that has a 25 mph speed limit and you're moving at 45 mph, it would sound an alarm, a safe speed warning,” Cavanaugh said.

Attention will not be drawn from the driver to their phone.

These students make up the development team for the app: Giovanna Esposito, 15, Matt Esser, 16, Luc Madonna, 16, and Chris Virostek, 16, all sophomores from Cranberry Township, and Veronica Muth, 14, a freshman from Butler.

The students created a video for Verizon explaining the app and its features. It took about four to five weeks to develop the concept and video through the high school's Create Lab.

“It feels awesome,” Matt said about winning the award.

The idea for the app came after a car crash last year that claimed the life of a Butler high school student. Police said the cause of the crash was excessive speed.

Matt said, “We know that a lot of teens are impacted by speeding on the road and how there are a lot of teen deaths. We wanted to create the app for him and all teens impacted by driving and speeding.”

Cavanaugh said the family of the student who died is not involved with the project. However, she said she hopes to write a letter to them saying it would be made in his memory.

“It was so soon after his death, we did not reach out to them over fear that we would add onto their grief,” she said. “We're trying to be sensitive for the family's grief.”

Forty-eight high schools from 47 states and Washington, D.C., were chosen for the “Best in State” award. Not all states had qualifying teams at each school level.

The next step for the app is undergoing a fan favorite contest by Verizon. If it wins, the app will earn support from developers to bring it into the market professionally, Cavanaugh said

People are able to help in deciding which app will be the fan favorite by texting SAFESPEED1 to 22333. People are able to vote once.

Matt said the team will try to have the app developed even if it doesn't win, saying it “could make a huge breakthrough” in teen driver safety.

Cavanaugh and Matt said they hope for the app to be available on all phone platforms.

Cavanaugh also said the project helps young people develop skills to work together and solve problems.

“It's so incredibly important for teenagers and any child to begin to understand that when they see a problem, it is possible for them, even at a young age, to begin to solve it,” she said.

“The value of running the program (Create Lab) at all is to help awaken them to those possibilities,” she said.

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