Boardman Students’ App Tests Gun-Law Knowledge

BOARDMAN, Ohio – It’s the second time students from Boardman High School have won the Congressional App Challenge for Ohio’s 13th District, but this time, it was a group of young women. 

“That’s an interesting thing because there’s not a lot of girls who take the technology classes and we’re thrilled,” said Evelyn Stanton, technology teacher at Boardman High School. “They’re great girls.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan presented certificates to Emma Davis and Ranean Sulebi, juniors, and Alara Erzurum, senior, Tuesday morning at Boardman High School. The team of young women worked together for two months to invent  the Ohio Gun Obtaining Quiz app, an informative app with a goal of creating awareness of Ohio’s current gun laws.

“The technology they were using has real world implications and all three of these girls said they think about school shootings happening in their own school,” Ryan said. ”They used that concern as a way to help,” Ryan said. 

The nationwide app challenge was created three years ago. The goal is to get kids competing around technologies, but also to try and solve broader, social or economic issues through the use of technology and how to work in teams.

While they were building the app, the young women had to work as a team to solve problems, an essential skill they’re going to need as they move through the world, Ryan said. 

The team wanted to have a point system on the app, though it was ultimately scrapped due to lack of screen space, Sulebi said. Other obstacles the group faced included unfinished code lines that caused errors and an error that didn’t allow the user to go to the final thank you page. Even though the app didn’t include all of their starting plans, creating it allowed them to, the students said. 

“We did struggle a bit with the point system, typing out the questions and getting the code right,” Sulebi said. “I didn’t think we were going to win.” 

According to the students, the app was inspired by the mass shooting in Dayton, where 17 people were killed and 27 were injured. 

“I saw the Dayton shooting on the news and I thought this could happen at my school,” Sulebi recalled. “[Stanton] told us about the app challenge and I thought this is my chance to make a change.” 

Boardman High School students Alara Erzurum, Emma Davis and Ranean Sulebi, front row, won the local Congressional App Challenge. Joining them Tuesday were school principal Cynthia Fernback, teacher Evelyn Stanton, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, Boardman Schools superintendent Timothy Saxton and associate principals Anne Bott and Kyle Sheehan.

Though guns can be a contentious issue, the app simply offersest on what the gun laws are in Ohio as a way to educate people. 

The app features scenarios that could happen when someone is trying to buy a gun in Ohio. The user goes through a series of yes or no questions, answering whether the hypothetical person could legally buy or carry a gun in the described scenario.

There are 10 questions on the app, Sulebi said. If a user gets a question wrong, they will receive an explanation of the right answer, she said. With the information the app provides, users can use it to their advantage to try and prevent shootings from happening in the future, Sulebi said. The app can help users protect themselves and inform others, she explained.

“They saw Dayton happen, which was so close to us, and I think it scared them a little bit,” she said. “They were afraid of the guns, so they decided to go ahead and do an app because this really was a passion of theirs.” 

The app was created using block code, which doesn’t require typing in the coding physically, Stanton said. Students move blocks with coding inside into the program area instead of typing it out themselves, which has made teaching program concepts to students easier, she said. 

“They don’t have to worry about the syntax of the program as much as just how it works,” Stanton said. “In traditional programming, you have to worry about commas, curly brackets and all of those things. [When] they use these blocks, they don’t have to be concerned about that. They can just bring the whole block over.”

If there are people who are already concerned about gun control, the app could help them with solutions and with reaching out to Congress with new ideas, Sulebi said. As of now, the app isn’t available for download, but the team is looking at their possible next steps, she said. 

The team is considering adding more questions to the quiz and having a different quiz for each state, which would make the app more personalized for each user, the students said. The team still wants to have a scoring feature and for the users to be able to save their responses to keep track of what they missed and what they got right, they said. 

“We didn’t really expect to win the challenge, but maybe we’ll keep going and have a website too,” Sulebi said. “We’re not completely sure yet.” 

In the spring, the team will travel to Washington, D.C., to showcase their app alongside hundreds of students from other congressional districts across the country. 

Among them will be Elyse Chess and Brooke Lassinger from Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District in western Pennsylvania, represented by Mike Kelly. The pair created the Let’s Get Down to Buzzness app, which allows users to learn the basics of creating a business. 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.