Two New Hanover Co. students create app, win 2022 Congressional App Challenge in North Carolina’s Seventh District

Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 10:15 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Two brothers and students in New Hanover County are making a big difference in schools after creating an app encouraging people to put their phones down and look up.

The app, creatively named “Lookupp,” won Rep. David Rouzer’s 2022 Congressional App Challenge in North Carolina’s Seventh District. As winners, Samin and Atiksh Bhan went to Washington D.C. to showcase the app they developed for the challenge.

Samin, a rising senior, and Atiksh, a rising eighth grader, created the app in hopes of reclaiming in-person interaction.

“Growing up, I personally faced a lot of issues with my own screen usage,” said Samin.

Samin says he and his friends no longer interacted face-to-face the way they used to, especially notable at Sunday morning breakfasts.

“As I entered high school, I started noticing that people around me and my friends were really struggling as well, we just couldn’t get off of our phones,” said Samin.

Revelations like these were what inspired Samin to create the app Lookupp.

Samin, the CEO and founder explains, “Rather than controlling screen time, we are nudging people to put down their phones, without interfering with privacy, in the moments that matter most.”

“After a year and a half of research, we discovered that the main issue may not be screen themselves, but rather when we choose to engage with them,” said Samin.

Many New Hanover County classrooms are now adopting the app as a way to positively reinforce students for staying engaged while learning. Samin and Atiksh explain that rewards can include anything from extra credit on a test to a donut or pizza party.

Two students from separate schools are taking on roles as “Lookupp Leaders” to introduce the app to as many eyes as possible.

“It’s been really promising because it’s been nice to be a leader among my peers and be someone that they can come to. And it’s really been nice to have a project like this that I’m passionate about. And I feel like it’s helping me grow and I just want to help my peers do the same thing,” said Lookupp Leader Hayley Williams.

The team is already seeing a 68% adoption rate across the initial three classrooms they tested.

Now, the team’s next steps are looking even larger.

“We’re hoping to reclaim dinner tables with families, we’re hoping to reclaim Sunday breakfasts with their friends. But now we’re hoping to replicate that impact all across the county,” said Samin.

Samin, Atiksh and the rest of the team want Lookupp to be something the entire community is using, and not just students in New Hanover County schools.

“We’ve reached out to quite a few local businesses, trying to get them to partner with us. They would get advertising to potentially thousands of students next year. And in return, they would offer rewards as incentives for users to put down their phones,” said Atiksh.

Businesses interested in partnering with Lookupp should reach out to the team here.