When 5-year-olds ask for a pet, they often receive a fish.
Ojasvi Kamboj and Annika Epperly, 17-year-old seniors at Skyview High School, can speak from experience. They were both given fish at a young age and tasked with the responsibility of caring for them.
This traditional gift — and a high number of abandoned, gifted, furry pets later in life — inspired Kamboj and Epperly to design a smartphone app making it just a little bit easier for children to care for their new family member.
“We thought something we could try to tackle was getting rid of the impulse buys by teaching people at a young age how to be responsible and how to take care of a pet,” Epperly said.
Their app, The Fin-damentals of Fish Care, won the 2018 Congressional App Challenge in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.
The Congressional App Challenge launched in 2015 as a way for members of Congress to encourage students to pursue computer science careers. Winners’ apps are displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building for a year.
Kamboj and Epperly were acknowledged for their accomplishment by U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, Wednesday at the Columbia Springs environmental education center.
Herrera Beutler said she was impressed by their work and glad to see two young women interested in computer science.
“I commend you for doing it,” Herrera Beutler said. Both students said they intend to continue down the STEM path as they look toward graduation: computer science for Epperly and aerospace engineering for Kamboj.
Their Fin-damentals app allows users — with a targeted user age between 5 and 12 years old — to schedule reminders to feed their fish and clean the tank. It also includes a coloring page to keep kids coming back to the app and a diagnostic page where children can select an ill pet’s symptoms to see what the issue might be.
Kamboj said they had to keep the descriptions of possible diseases child-friendly because some, such as hole-in-the-head disease, are “gruesome” and could scare young users. They also left the task of explaining that a fish has died to the parent.
Kamboj and Epperly spent about a month researching their project and were pleased to discover there was not yet an app of this kind in the marketplace: They had found a niche to fill. It took another month or two to build the app using MIT App Inventor 2, applying the skills they learned in computer science classes and while working on a senior project.
There are a few planned updates, including bigger buttons, more coloring pages and a more comprehensive diagnostic page. If all goes to plan, the app will be available for download in the Google Play store.
Herrera Beutler said her children are starting to ask for pets, and when the time comes, Kamboj and Epperly’s app may be just the thing she’s looking for.