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Minnesota High Schoolers Design App to Report Vandalism

As their final computer science project at Hermantown High School, a group of seniors built the Hawk Tip Line app to allow students to anonymously report vandalism, as well as acts of kindness, to school officials.

(TNS) — A group of high school seniors worked together to develop an phone application to help keep their school a little cleaner and safer moving forward.

Jack Dobinsin, Jimmy Gerth, Aiden Anderson and Logan Ter Mer developed the Hawk Tip Line app which allows students to anonymously report vandalism, as well as acts of kindness and responsibility, to school officials. The students developed the app as their final project for their yearlong computer science course at Hermantown High School.

"In the fall, we looked at the options for projects and this one caught our eye because the end-user was Superintendent (Wayne) Whitwam," Dobinson said. "And we thought it sounded like an interesting idea to help stop all the vandalism."

Dobinson and Gerth said the high school saw an uptick in vandalism throughout the school year. It started in the fall with what was known as the "devious licks" TikTok challenge which promoted stealing items from schools.

"But that only lasted like a week or two and then it died out," Gerth said. "And mostly everything that was taken then got returned. But then some kids started doing all kinds of vandalism, mostly in the bathrooms."

The acts of vandalism ranged from stealing signs, to taking off stall doors, to spreading fecal matter on a surface. The vandalism caused by three or four students resulted in hours of work for custodians and eventually to bathrooms being closed.

"The only bathroom that was open for like three months was all the way across the building," Dobinson said. "We made a lot of running jokes about having to walk so far to get to it."

"And then once you got there, it would be so full because it was the only option," Gerth said.

These experiences, along with several conversations with Whitwam, teachers and custodians, and their fellow students, inspired the creation of Hawk Tip Line. The app will allow students to anonymously report observations of vandalism.

"We know that teachers and staff can't be everywhere, and they shouldn't have to be," Dobinson said. "But this way you don't have to go to the office in person to talk about something you've seen and no one will have to know it's you who made the report."

Along with reports of vandalism, the students created a section on the app that would allow for reports of good behavior as well. The hope is that the good reports will encourage their fellow students and possibly result in a prize for good behavior at the end of the year.

The app is mostly complete development-wise, but hasn't been added to the App Store quite yet. The students presented it to the Hermantown School board last week and are awaiting their decision on its use in the future. If successful, Gerth said Whitwam talked about loaning out the app design to other schools for their use. As for its creators, all four boys are headed off to college next year, some for computer science and related fields.

©2022 the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.