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South Valley Journal

High school students design wardrobe management app, win award

Mar 28, 2017 09:18AM ● By Tori LaRue

Kyle Christensen, Taylor Dee, Eric Evans, Brandee Hick and their teacher Melinda Mansouri hold up certificates they won in the Verizon Innovative Learning app challenge. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

Five high-school web designers from the Jordan Academy of Technology and Careers won “Best in State” for their wardrobe management app design that caters to the blind and visually impaired.

“I never considered myself to be one of those super-smart people that could ever win something like this, so the thought that we could is amazing,” said award recipient Eric Evans, a senior.

The app design originated with Taylor Dee. The junior, who considers herself to be ”all about clothes,” said she wanted to create an app that would help users mix and match their outfits and become more confident.

One of Dee and Evan’s team members, senior Brandee Hick, is legally blind, so Dee suggested her team add an audio element to their app to accommodate people who have visual ailments. Brandee said she loved the idea, so the team got to work.

“Getting ready is not a huge problem that blind people complain about, but this app is something that could help in our day to day,” Hick said.

In just three weeks, Evans, Dee and Hick, along with classmates Kyle Christensen and Naomi Lundberg, designed “Pocket Closet,” the app that matches, organizes and recommends outfits. The app is also intended to track clothing articles from the hamper to the washing machine and back to the closet. It has a donation feature, which allows users to see nearby locations they could donate the clothes they don’t wear often.

Their design plan shows the app working as follows: Participants take pictures of clothing items, and the system gives a description of the article and suggests what could be worn with it. When enabled, the app’s “visually impaired” setting reads the information aloud. The app also has a setting that switches color labels from swatches to words, so those who are colorblind can make better use of the application.

The five teens entered their design into the Verizon Innovative Learning app challenge, along with 1,800 other contestants, and won the Utah portion. Although they didn’t place in the national competition, Christensen said he was proud and shocked.  

“There are so many students in Utah who are so good at this kind of stuff, and it feels awesome to be honored like that,” he said, adding that he’s already added the award to his resume. “This kind of stuff will really help us out in the future with our school and jobs.”

Verizon sent the students and their teacher, Melinda Mansouri, award certificates, a plaque and a 6-foot-by-4-foot banner congratulating them on their win. The students gawked at the size of the “Best in State” sign.

“It’s almost big enough that I can read the wording on it,” Hick joked as she chuckled.

Word of their victory spread through their school and communities about the app, and folks are already asking the group how they can access “Pocket Closet.” The teens answer that people can’t yet.

“This competition was just for the planning portion of the app—where you plan out what the app will be,” Mansouri said. “If you win the national competition, they send out IT programmers to help you create it. What will happen—because we didn’t get that far—is that during fourth quarter in April and May, my students will actually build the app.”

The team of five plan to have their app in the app store by mid- to late-May. 

Mansouri said the sky was the limit when the group planned its apps but said the first prototype the students will build in class will likely be simplified and focus on a few key functions.

“It’s a start,” she said. “I’ve had old students go back and rework their apps and improve them over time.”

While the teens attend the JATC together, each has a different home high school. Evans attends Murray High, Christensen attends Riverton High, Dee attends Herriman High, Hick attends Bingham High and Lundberg attends West Jordan High. To finish their project—which included two short videos, a logo design, rendering of the app screens and essays—the teens got together on their own time. 

“This group had a vision, and they just really worked together in a way that’s unusual for high school students so that the design worked,” Mansouri said. “I’m very proud of them for working together and for putting in the extra time to make this a success.”