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MCVTS Edison Academy seniors win Congressional App Challenge

MCVTS Edison Academy seniors win Congressional App Challenge

Is my school bus late or did I miss it?

That question might be answered in the future by a cellphone app created by two students at the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies in Edison.

Seniors Serena Zeng of Piscataway and Adhya Khare of Monroe, who are in the electronic and computer engineering program at the academy, were honored Jan. 6 by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th District) at an assembly at the school. He gave the girls certificates naming them winners of the Congressional App Challenge for the district.

As they explained it to their fellow seniors at the assembly, their “My Bus” app would allow students, parents, school administrators and bus company personnel to know where a particular bus is located in real time. They said the idea sprang from a snowy day last winter when there was an early dismissal from school and, because of weather conditions and traffic, some students didn’t arrive home until 7 p.m.

“The busing system often can be chaotic when buses come late,” Serena said, adding that the app would facilitate emergency notifications if there was a breakdown or unusually heavy traffic.

Looking on were Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools Superintendent Dianne D. Veilleux and Edison Academy Principal John Jeffries.

The girls developed both the software and the hardware for the app between September and the end of October, with the guidance of teacher Enzo Paterno. The app also is their senior “capstone” project.

Pallone said almost 350 of the nation’s 435 congressional districts participate in the App Challenge, which is open to middle school and high school students. He said the challenge is to come up with something that is creative, relevant and solves a problem.

“There are not enough students going into math, engineering and technology,” he said. “We need them to keep America first in global competition.

“You are obviously in the vanguard of that,” he added. “You know more than I do.”

Pallone called the girls’ app “very exciting.”

“It’s something that could be used nationally,” he said.

Pallone, who has been in Congress more than 30 years, is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He spent 45 minutes answering questions on such topics as tension in the Middle East, impeachment, the presidential election, health insurance, climate change, and the college-tuition debt crisis.

“I always encourage students to go into government,” he said. “You can be an engineer and still be a politician.”

Jeffries praised the winning students, calling them both leaders among the student body. He said Serena coordinates the school’s annual “hackathon,” and Adhya is the “go-to” person for any programs in the fine arts at the academy.

The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District, the first full-time county vocational school district in the nation, has campuses in East Brunswick, Edison, Perth Amboy, Piscataway and Woodbridge, offering 34 career majors.

The Edison Academy has been named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and also has been singled out as one of the nation’s best high schools by U.S. News & World Report. New Jersey Monthly magazine has ranked the Edison Academy fourth in New Jersey in its survey of the state’s vocational high schools. The academy also was ranked first among all Middlesex County public high schools by Inside Jersey magazine, a publication of the Star-Ledger.