North Dakota Eighth-Graders Develop First Responder Solution

The Emergency Video Assistance app connects the caller to the first responder, providing real-time situational awareness and saving critical minutes on scene. The app is a Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest finalist.

by Jim McKay / March 22, 2019

Northern Cass Middle School in Hunter, North Dakota is located about 30 miles northwest of Fargo and the student body of about 650 students is made up of many rural towns. Unfortunately, for the school and townspeople, the closest first responders about a 30- to 45-minute drive away.

So the school’s eighth-grade class decided that was the best choice as a problem they could solve for the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow national Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) contest. They developed an app, the Emergency Video Assistance (EVA) that connects the caller with first responders during their lengthy drive, providing video and other information for real-time situational awareness.

The app is a national Top 10 finalist and claimed $50,000 for technology, and is one step away from the top three national winners, and two steps away from the top spot and the $100,000 prize, to be decided in April.

“If you’re in a situation where you can’t call 911, you can text or FaceTime so the first responders can see what kind of situation you’re in,” said eighth-grade student Halle Crockett.
“The FaceTime feature connects with the first responders so they can see what’s happening as they’re driving to the location,” said eighth-grade student Mary Jodock.

“The school here is literally out in the middle of nowhere,” said Ben Hannasch, Northern Cass Middle School social science teacher. “There’s no town that it’s connected to, and all of the towns around are about 30 minutes away from a true responding team,” he said.

“That’s how the FaceTime feature came about,” Hannasch said. “We wanted to be able to make sure that first responders could assess the situation and help as best as possible on the way to the scene instead of getting there and having to assess at that time.”

There are four options included on the app: calling 911; texting 911; video chatting with a first responder; and an information page where the caller can access life-saving data and instructions.
“The information procedures page is information for when you’re in a situation where you don’t know what to do or can’t access 911,” said eighth-grade student Jana Russiff. “It has instructions for CPR, stroke — and it has visuals.”

The class visited the nearest dispatch center to get an understanding of what call-takers face and to get their opinions on what the app should include. The class also talked with emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and a sheriff’s department.

“After we talked to the EMTs, the dispatch center, and the sheriff to see what they would like to see in the app, we brainstormed,” Hannasch said. “We knew we couldn’t get everything they wanted, but we came up with the top four.

The class decided that because call-takers weren’t experienced in actual emergency response, they wanted the EMTs to have direct access to the video chat feature.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for a small-town school to be a national finalist,” Hannasch said. “The kids are able to see that they can compete with any school in the country.”

“We’re excited to be able to share our idea because we see so much potential in this app,” Crockett said.

The class used Mobile App Creator for the project, and Hannasch said the hope is that someone will see the idea and code it to make it apply.

The contest was open to 6th-12th graders nationally to show how STEM can be applied to help improve a local community. 

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