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Vancouver Grade 7 student develops app for COVID-19 patients

Last Updated May 17, 2020 at 9:55 pm PDT

Viduni Siriwardana (Courtesy Viduni Siriwardana)

Viduni Siriwardana attends school at Lord Selkirk in Vancouver, and has been designing apps for the last three years

The app is designed to reach out for help if the person with COVID cannot talk or breathe

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – While some kids might be enjoying time not tied down to academic tasks, a local Grade 7 student has been hard at work developing a new app she hopes will get the attention of local health authorities.

Viduni Siriwardana attends school at Lord Selkirk in Vancouver, and has been designing apps for the last three years. Her extensive online resume shows she has a knack for technology and science projects.

Her latest inspiration comes from the current pandemic. She noticed on the BC Centre for Disease Control website that a severe symptom of COVID-19 is the inability to speak or to even breathe properly.

“It doesn’t seem like they can yell out to loved ones at home because they are in isolation. They can’t say ‘I can’t breathe’ because they can only say one word,” she notes.

So she got to work, inventing an app that could speak for the COVID patient when they need urgent help.

The Patient Assistant app features a big red help button.

“You hold the button or you can shake it for three seconds. It directly calls 911 and it sends a text message to a specific contact number that you listed when you made the account in the app,” she explains.

But she has also recognized that patients are required to be confined, and that got her thinking about how to get those patients interacting with each other. So a secondary purpose of the app is to get them to share their experience.

“Since you don’t really have much human interaction when you’re in isolation, if the user wants they can share what they are doing in isolation,” she says. “It makes the user feel that they are not alone and that others understand what they’re going through, like a virtual community.”

She sees that feature potentially beneficial to the research community as well, if they can see trends in symptoms.

Siriwardana has been coding since she was six years old, and it didn’t take long for her to finish this particular project.

“Since I have experience app-building, it didn’t take me too long –maybe five days.”

The precocious student sees her app being available on the Google Play Store. Unfortunately, she says, she was deemed too young to have a product at the App Store. She would really like BC’s health authorities to offer it up specifically to patients. She has even put together a video that describes how to set up the app.

“When a patient is diagnosed, then the health authorities can say to them that this app is available so that get in touch in an emergency as well as connect them to other patients.”

While some courses have helped her with app-development, she admits a lot of it was self-taught. So does she miss school?

“I guess, kind-of. But not really, because this time gives me more time to make apps and reflect on myself. I do miss my friends.”