A Danville teen who made an app allowing users to quickly send allergy information to health care providers won a congressional contest earlier this week.
Jasmine Steele, a student at San Ramon Valley High School, beat out other contestants from the Bay Area for the 2016 Congressional App Challenge, a contest that is aimed at encouraging young people to learn how to code.
"I really am proud to have won," the 16-year-old Jasmine said. "I guess I made the app because I thought it was a good thing to do."
Jasmine created her app, Allergy Blast, over the course of the past year, hoping that it may help children, seniors or people with special needs share critical health and allergy information. Jasmine suffers from a severe nut allergy.
"Whenever I would be under someone else's care, my mom would type off this long list of allergy information," she explained. "It worked, but it was a big hassle. So, instead of making a paper that they have to print out, they can just create a profile once, save it and resend it anytime."
In a phone interview with NBC Bay Area, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier said he was proud of Jasmine and called the app "life saving." He recalled a time when his ex-wife had a severe allergic reaction to bees and said Allergy Blast could be an important resource in similarly dire situations.
"It's just a wonderful combination of using a technology for a practical application that I could really relate to," he said.
DeSaulnier added that he found Jasmine to be an "amazing" student who is "very composed," both compliments echoed by her computer science teacher, Janet Muirragui.
“She’s very mature, conscientious,” Muirragui said. “She’s very talented. Her grades are excellent — she has the highest grade she can get.”
When Jasmine isn't studying for the SATs or in one of her AP classes, she enjoys drawing and creating art. Her mother, Julie Steele, said that Jasmine is attracted to projects that combine the humanities and STEM.
"She started playing around with drawing software early on," Steele said. "She really figured out that she loved it, and that's the direction that she wants to continue heading down."
Jasmine, who would like to attend MIT or UC Berkeley, is used to being one of the few girls in STEM classes and is trying to encourage more young girls to get into the field. According to the Census Bureau, women comprise 48 percent of the workforce, yet women hold only 24 percent of the STEM positions. Other organizations have found the figure to be much lower.
"It creates this atmosphere where, since there are so many more boys than girls, boys are much more vocal and seem more confident in their abilities," Jasmine said. "And, on the flip side, girls seem less willing to show off their work, even though their input is super valuable."
Her mother has noticed her daughter's commitment to closing the gender gap strengthen since enrolling in programs like Pixar's Girls Who Code and seeing other successful women in the tech industry.
"She really wants to be a part of that movement," Steele said.
Currently, Jasmine is working on a web comic about a tech-savvy female superhero who inspires young girls to code.
"I feel like it's really important for us not only to get more girls into STEM, but also to help them feel like they are welcome there and that they really can succeed in that area," she said of her inspiration for the comic. "And, also show that it's not just boring nerd work. You can create vibrant worlds using technology."
Gillian Edevane covers Contra Costa County for NBC Bay Area. Contact her at Gillian.Edevane@NBCuni.com or give her a call at (669) 263-2895.