Fairfax Co. high school students develop app geared toward veterans

From left to right, Nevin Taylor, White House Presidential Innovation Fellow, Ethan Ocasio, Neeyanth Kopparapu, Shreeja Kikkisetti (the members of the GCL team) and Dr. Gil Alterovitz, director of Artificial Intelligence at Veterans Affairs. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)

A few high school students in Fairfax County, Virginia, are breaking down barriers with a new app they hope will help veterans searching for services.

It’s called the Clinical Trial Selector, and the goal is to give veterans and folks on Medicare access to clinical trials.

Ethan Ocasio is a high school junior at The New School of Northern Virginia. He worked alongside Neeyanth Kopparapu and Shreeja Kikkisetti for about six months to create the application.

“We really hope that our program will help those 9 million veterans find programs that they need much, much faster,” Ocasio said. The app will also help an additional 50 million Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

The teens are a part of the Girls Computing League, a nonprofit encouraging underserved youth to get into technology. They began working on the project after connecting with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ artificial intelligence team.

They then joined the VA Health AI Tech Sprint.

A number of groups in the program took on the task of working to demonstrate how data and AI could be used to better serve veterans.

The team won honorable mentions from the National Artificial Intelligence Institute during a demo day and are now focusing on making the app available to the public.

Ocasio said there were obstacles, like understanding how to match clinical conditions with codes, but automating the process for patients and doctors has been rewarding.

“These days, kids have a lot of power to do something impactful,” he said, clearly excited about the team’s success.

Ocasio said while the app is still being developed, it’s a reminder of how capable all students truly are.

“Don’t be afraid to try something out of the box because we need more innovative ideas, especially from kids.”

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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