App builder hopes to help others

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Ridgefield High School junior Robert Buckley works on his myParkinson’s app, which tracks tremor activity to help track a patient’s condition over time. myParkinson’s, which won the 2016 Congressional App Challenge for Jim Himes’s 4th Congressional District, is Buckley’s third app.

Selflessness and technology go hand in hand for Ridgefielder Robert Buckley.

The Ridgefield High School junior started working on myParkinson’s, a smartphone application that measures tremor activity to track a patient’s condition over time and collects and stores user data anonymously, in January and completed the app in March.

Nine months later, he won the 2016 Congressional App Challenge for Jim Himes’s 4th Congressional District. The award comes with prizes — credits to Amazon Web services and an invitation to attend the #HouseofCode reception in Washington, D.C., on April 4.

Buckley, a member of the high school’s tech club that was founded last year, said the goal of the app was to help people in need.  

“I don’t have any close family members with the disease,” he said. “I’ve just always been interested in the medical field, and the idea for the app came to me when I was studying the motion technology of phones and I thought it could help others who are suffering from Parkinson’s.”

Once the app is downloaded, users can open it and lay their phone flat on their hands.

“It will see how much you shake in 10-second intervals,” said Buckley, who’s a member of the high school chess and math teams.

“The data storage is limitless, and it makes a graph for you right in the app that displays how much someone shakes and allows them to track their progress.”

Buckley, whose favorite subject is math, first learned how to code in the seventh grade, but said he wasn’t good enough to create digital platforms until he was a freshman at RHS.

He looks forward to taking AP coding next year as a senior and possibly majoring in computer science when he gets to college.

Buckley created myParkinson’s and two other apps during his free time.

“I didn’t know about the competition when I started. This is just something I like to do when I’m away from school,” he said.

“I applied for the award in the summer and was pleasantly surprised when I heard back from them that I had won,” he said.

Word docs and dog shelters

Besides myParkinson’s,he has also made an app called Translated Gender that searches word documents for gender terms like businessman or mailman and neutralizes them.

He’s also worked with local businesses, like the animal shelter Tails of Courage in Danbury.

“I took all the dog data they had — the names, the ages, the types — and turned it into an app,” said Buckley.

“It even has directions to how to get there.”

Research

myParkinson’s also has its share of special functions.

In addition to the readings and tracking user history, it allows those who download it to take surveys about their condition — anonymous data that Buckley hopes to use to find a trend.

“The goal is to improve lives and do to research,” he said.

Eventually, he plans on applying neural network algorithms to the collected data so medical researchers can better understand the symptoms and one day better diagnose the disease.

Wearables

That’s not the only expansion plan Buckley has for myParkinson’s.

Right now the app can be downloaded only on Android phones and tablets. He said it will be available for Apple users soon, and that when it is he would like for it to be downloaded on Apple Watches and any other wearable device.

“Having it on your wrist or your arm could really be helpful,” he said.

Shooting robots

The tech club, which was founded during the 2015-16 school year and started its first full year in September, has about 20 members, according to Buckley.

Currently, the club is working with the Ridgefield Police Department to build a target dummy that moves for officers to practice shooting.

Buckley said the members have a variety of interests, ranging from building games to creating robots.

While he enjoys the “fun” aspect of technology, he believes his interests lie closer to more serious endeavors, like the field of medicine and scientific research.

“I’m still trying to find what interests me,” Buckley said. “I know I definitely want to do something that’s useful to others and that can be used in society to help people.”

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