Brother and sister Coolsjes and Riddhi Singhvi know their strengths when it comes to developing and designing a useful phone application.
“When we start brainstorming, Coolsjes is thinking about how he’s going to code it,” Riddhi said.
On the other side, Riddhi handles most of the design elements for their apps as she has the keener eye for it.
“He’s not the best with colors,” Riddhi said, jesting with her brother.
“Yellow is an under-rated [color], and lime green, too,” Coolsjes jokingly retorted.
Riddhi, an eighth-grader at Stillwater Middle School, and Coolsjes, a 10th-grader at Stillwater Area High School, brought home a win this year in the Congressional App Challenge for Minnesota’s fourth congressional district for their online agenda app, SMART Planner. It’s their second consecutive year winning the challenge.
The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) Planner lets users create long-term goals for themselves, create daily tasks that need to be completed on a deadline, and earn personal rewards when goals are met.
“One thing that both of us have valued for a long time is the practice of setting goals, and measuring your progress when we set these goals, [and] what are ways we can reward ourselves when we meet our goals,” Coolsjes said.
One of Riddhi’s rewards for goal completion is to go to the Mall of America – not to ride on the roller coasters, though.
The idea for this year’s app originated from the class Middle School Success they took where they learned tools to stay organized with assignments, projects and other work.
“[The teacher] really taught us how to keep organized, how to stay on track, how to keep up and know what’s going on and be able to set up for anything that could come your way in the future,” Riddhi said.
An issue they both experienced related to scheduling and planning, however, is that paper offers only a finite space to map out an agenda.
“The writing space isn’t enough in the planners. They’re so small,” Coolsjes said.
Riddhi added, “There’s only so much you can put into [a planner] before it kind of just looks like a complete mess.”
Coolsjes primarily worked on the coding aspect of the app while Riddhi focused on the design of it and how it could appeal to the audience. With all the features the planner application offers, it took a lot of leg-work behind the scenes to ensure it functions how they hoped it would.
The duo reached the end result “through blood, sweat and troubleshooting,” Coolsjes said.
The Singhvis hope to connect app deadlines into Google Calendar to make it a more accessible resource.
This year’s winning app for the Singhvis is different functionally and aesthetically compared to last year’s challenge, for which they entered a health-related app. Last year, they won the challenge for an early diabetes detection app, D-Predict, to help users identify if they are in a pre-diabetic stage without a doctor visit.
“From pre-diabetes to goal-setting, which are not the most similar concepts,” Coolsjes joked, later adding: “It’s not always super easy to just go out and get a lab test, so we tried looking for behavioral and physical attributes that could help you see if you had pre-diabetes.”
He and Riddhi separately completed academic projects related to diabetes in earlier years. Coolsjes looked into the impacts of intermittent fasting and specific diets related to diabetes, and Riddhi modeled the insulin equation, trying to figure out what causes high blood sugar spikes and blood sugar dips. They were both drawn to the topic because they have a diabetic gene in their family.
“It generally just runs within our family,” Coolsjes explained. “So we have just tried ways to help avoid it.”
It made sense for them to create an app related to pre-diabetes detection. The COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing when they were developing D-Predict, reinforcing their need for this free resource as a virtual tool to determine if someone is at risk or showing early symptoms of diabetes.
“If COVID didn’t happen, I don’t know if a lot of the brainstorming that went into our app about pre-diabetes would have happened. … We were thinking about how people can’t go to get tested for pre-diabetes or how we, ourselves, couldn’t,” Coolsjes explained.
Riddhi learned from the past year how to approach this year’s planner app.
“Last year I feel like there was a lot more experimenting, but this year I feel like it was more firmer and set in stone of what I wanted to do,” Riddhi continued.
“I got some emails about it. Coolsjes got some emails about it. I think it might have been because, you know, Google does track you,” Riddhi laughed, adding, “If we didn’t do coding and we saw that [email], we would have missed that opportunity and completely missed that whole entire area of our lives.”
Despite their success now, there was a lot of troubleshooting to achieve a robust understanding of the software systems. Code can be tricky when one character, like a semi-colon or parentheses, is misplaced and the code doesn’t work properly.
“It’s called the ‘Oh no’ guy,” Riddhi said, with Coolsjes adding, “It’s a green blob that’s like ‘Oh no, there’s an error on line six,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, where’s the error.’”
It is a rewarding feeling, they say, to figure out what went wrong, find out how to fix it, and make things come to life on the screen.
They haven’t thought of their app concept for next year yet and are hoping an idea will come to them later in the year.
“I’m sure we’ll think of something between passions and things that we value and are interested in,” Coolsjes said.
The Singhvis focus on academics outside of this challenge as Coolsjes is advancing to higher levels in speech and debate competitions as well as participating in the Business Professionals of America. Coolsjes and his partner Ella Peterson earned third place at the state BPA competition for the phone app they created that allows users to navigate a hypothetical amusement park.
Riddhi is advancing to a regional science fair for her work using CRISPR biotechnology to split and combine E. Coli DNA to see how they would be impacted.
Even though they’re still in school, Riddhi’s science experiment using biotechnology is something she sees herself pursuing as a possible career in the future, while Coolsjes thinks he’ll take some of his coding experience with him to a finance-focused career.
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