Sometimes the best experts on keeping students safe at school are students.
And a group of Ross High School students have become so adept at inventing a new way to keep students safer they have been named one of 10 finalists in a national contest for their school security app.
The four students are also part of the school’s Butler Tech computer information program.
The students designed a school safety system to provide early warning for a range of emergencies to first responders and school administrators — including gunshot location detection.
“We’re hoping the product will be picked up and we can form a company,” Ross senior Jacob Halm said.
But the main motivation is to keep schools safer from violent threats.
“We have put hard work into it and we want to help the community. (Threats) are something that is always going to happen … (the app) is going to help not only our school but also the community around us and potentially the rest of the world to prevent future events like Columbine and Sandy Hook from happening,” said Halm, in reference to two of the deadliest school shooting massacres in American history.
The computer app will alert authorized users to a number of threats to student safety. It interfaces with gunfire detection software to pinpoint the location of an incident on a school map and send alerts to first responders and school officials. It can also interface with metal detectors to provide alerts when sensors are activated.
The system — dubbed “Violence Protection System” or “VPS” by its teenage creators — also allows users to manage emergencies such as bomb threats, fire and weather events, said school officials.
“It is a product that is needed,” said Butler Tech Instructor Thomas O’Neill, who guided the students during their experimentation.
The security phone app is a faster, more modern safety option than current security alert systems used by many schools when it comes to violent threats or dangerous weather situations, O’Neill said.
“We’re trying to solve ways to make (school) safer for students,” said O’Neill, who was also recently honored as the Ohio School Boards Association of Southwest Ohio Region’s Outstanding Faculty Member for 2017.
The VPS security app could become a business for the students, he said.
“This is a viable commercial product (and) when it is complete and ready to market could easily be a multi-million dollar product,” O’Neill said.
The students were scheduled to travel to New York City for the awards ceremony by contest sponsor Samsung, but the event was postponed due to last week’s snow storm along the East Coast.
“We talked to schools that had shootings in the past,” including nearby Madison Schools, which had a student shooting that injured four students — last year, said student Grant Ridge.
“We realized that (VPS) is something that every school needs,” Ridge said.