San Francisco

Crime-Mapping Navigation Tool by Bay Area Teens Wins National App Challenge

A group of Bay Area teenagers won a national hunt for new and innovative applications for their crime-mapping navigation app in San Francisco. 

"I went to a 'Sweet 16' party in San Francisco and it was just a bunch of girls and we were planning on where we were going to go, but we weren't really sure what places to avoid and what places were safe." Savita Balaji, 16, a member of 'Team Intuit' said.

In addition to the honor, the team received $20,000 from the Verizon Foundation, five tablets as well as mentoring from application experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to help build their final product.

Once finished, they will travel to the Technology Student Association Conference in June to present their product.

The winning team initially met during the Girls Who Code program, a non-profit program which focuses on teaching girls emerging skills in technology.

"Us girls in Girls Who Code, we formed a group and created this app," Balaji. "We want everybody to feel safe and comfortable when they’re traveling."

Fittingly named after the Greek goddess of protection, Soteria, the app recommends routes based on crime data, police social feeds and includes an emergency call feature.

Rebecca Greenway
Erin Allard, the Girls Who Code coach, talks to the winning team during a ceremony on the Intuit headquarters in Mountain View. (Published Friday, Feb. 17)

Erin Allard, the Girls Who Code coach is excited for the girls' future.

"I wrote letters of reference for a handful of them who are graduating seniors hoping to get into computer science programs so that's been really rewarding for me as a teacher," Allard said. "It is so empowering for anyone to learn how to code but especially girls who are really underrepresented in tech."

With about 1,800 submissions, Verizon presented the awards to just a handful of teams.

The Soteria app creators recieved recognition Wednesday during a ceremony on the Intuit headquarters in Mountain View, where they had been hosted for the Girls Who Code program.

And for Balaji, it's only the beginning for the Soteria app.

"We would like to reach a larger crowd," Balaji said, adding that she wants to include more visual features and cities before its launch.

The Verizon Innovative Learning App Challenge is part of a #weneedmore campaign Verizon announced to call attention to the gap in technology education. 

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