• Nathaniel Chen, Amelia Madarang, Kristen Stilin
  • Screenshots of the Duck and Cover app

Pictured above, from left: Nathaniel Chen, Amelia Madarang and Kristen Stilin

Mobile app designed for disaster preparedness

More than 65 years after a short government film called “Duck and Cover” taught school children what to do in the event of a nuclear attack, a trio of students at Skyview High School updated the concept for the digital age.

Amelia Madarang, Kristen Stilin and Nathaniel Chen are students in Skyview’s Science, Math and Technology magnet program. Their mobile app, also called Duck and Cover, was created using MIT’s App Inventor to assist people before, during and after a disaster.

The result is a robust resource, containing Red Cross– and FEMA-sourced checklists of items to have on hand and tasks to do in preparation, such as testing smoke alarms, with the ability to set reminders. Stored maps and contacts provide reference points for reunification with friends and family members and information for reaching people and agencies that can assist.

Duck and Cover isn’t the first app to provide these tools, but the students also created a unique section of the app that allows users to store important documents and images, such as birth certificates and documentation of property damage that can later be shared with insurance companies. And unlike some other apps, Duck and Cover doesn’t require significant data usage and can be accessed offline during power outages.

The students created the app to satisfy a graduation requirement, working long hours in an after-school computer science research class taught by Heather Davis and Kim Hansen and outside of school.

Local concerns over the possibility of a significant earthquake in the near future and a spate of hurricanes last fall stoked the students’ thinking about real-world applications for their creation. “We originally had the Pacific Northwest in mind, but it could apply to other disasters, too,” said Stilin.

The app quickly found success, including winning an award at the Southwest Washington Science and Engineering Fair in March 2017. In December 2017, it was selected by Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler as the winner of the 3rd Congressional District’s mobile app challenge for students.

And while Chen, Madarang and Stilin don’t plan to release their app publicly, it is a testament to their creativity and hard work. Innovation is alive and well in Vancouver Public Schools.