District 16 delegate race goes mobile with help of high school students -- Gazette.Net


Though Candy Crush may be topping the charts for smartphone apps, a pair of Walter Johnson High School seniors are gaining traction with an app to assist District 16 voters. On the app, users can learn more about one of their candidates, figure out if they live in District 16, and find election information.

Robert Mozayeni and Daniel Kapit designed the app, called Cooper for Maryland, for Democratic District 16 delegate candidate Jordan Cooper.

The app includes statements from Cooper on various election issues and a blog, and connects to social media, volunteer opportunities, and a website where users can make donations to Cooper’s campaign. It is free and available for Apple and Android devices.

“When you have a lot of voters that are unaware of what district they’re in, ... it’s helpful to be able to refer voters to the app and just say ‘open the app at your house and it will be able to tell you if you’re in the district or not,’” Cooper said.

Cooper for Maryland is among four or more apps Robert has designed since first exploring the world of designing software and apps at age 12. He designed the iPhone version, while Daniel took on the Android one.

Another friend and Walter Johnson senior, Gio Managadze, helped build Cooper’s website.

Robert volunteered to create the app for Cooper after meeting the candidate last year. It was July when Cooper knocked on Robert’s door while campaigning in the neighborhood. Robert was drawn to Cooper’s focus on job creation and business growth in his “Three Point Plan to Raise Revenue.”

“I thought it might be cool to develop an app for the campaign,” he said. He called Daniel to help him with the project.

In October Robert started writing code for the app, spending “a couple weeks worth” of time developing it until its debut in February. Daniel’s Android version came out a week or so later at the end of February.

Immediately upon opening the app, “it tells [the user] what [Maryland House of Delegates] district they’re in using GPS location,” Robert said. In the upper right corner is a countdown to the primary election on June 24.

Robert was 12 when Apple introduced its app store, and he recalls, “I just got really excited by the idea of building software that anyone could have access to and anyone could use.”

He started with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s free online introduction to programming course. After dabbling for a couple years, Robert said the concepts really started to stick when he took programming classes at Walter Johnson as sophomore.

“As soon as I had assignments to do, I started using the information,” he said, attributing his progress to computer science teacher Thomas Reinhardt.

Between a few more online tutorials and summer classes, Robert developed a game app called InifiMaze and a photo sharing one called LocalPics. He also does freelance developing now.

Daniel also became interested in programming early, around age 13.

“My dad works for a technology company and I was really interested in it so I started teaching myself and just kept with it,” Daniel said.

He used online resources and books to learn programming, and later took classes at Walter Johnson. After having taken all the programming courses the high school offers, Daniel did an independent study last fall and created a robotic arm. The user wears a glove and when the person wearing it move their hand, the robotic one mimics the movements.

Until now, Daniel had focused on building computer applications and websites. He said he’d like to build more smartphone apps in the future.

Creating iPhone apps is free using Xcode, Apple’s program, and “the basics are actually pretty simple these days,” said Robert. To open, share and use an app costs $100 per year. Android apps only require a one-time $20 licensing fee, according to Daniel.

Gio, 17, helped develop Cooper’s site, building off of a very basic one, making it more attractive, adding functionality and transferring it to a new platform. He did the work during a senior project, an independent study, last fall.

The three students are already kicking off careers in programming with internships.

Last spring Robert landed an internship writing code for Treehouse, a company based in Orlando, Fla., that teaches programming and software development online. This summer he’ll work for the company again.

Daniel and Gio both worked for BEA Enterprises Inc. last summer, building websites with health care information and resources for underserved foreign populations.

Right now they’re waiting to hear back from colleges. In the future, Robert said, “I have a couple ideas,” on what he’d like to do: “Definitely software engineering,” he said, and maybe creating “web services that integrate with apps.” Daniel hopes to study computer science or electrical engineering. And Gio said he’ll continue programming in college, but with interests in debate and business, he has a lot of ideas for what career he will pursue.