Rayan Yu, 17, of Vienna, Virginia, a junior at James Madison High School, worked with a partner to create free STEM-education mobile apps to help level the playing field for students around the world who otherwise lack the resources to reach their full potential. Two summers ago, Rayan tutored students in his father’s hometown, an underserved village in China. He saw a real desperation to learn, but the obstacles were great. “Their schools lacked textbooks, curriculums and even teachers,” said Rayan. “It was heartbreaking to see so many lose their potential simply because they did not have access to quality education.”
When Rayan returned home, he founded “inGenius X,” a nonprofit whose mission is to provide “easy access to education anywhere and everywhere.” With the help of a partner, Rayan set out to create a math-based app. The pair spent a year coding, creating graphics, developing a curriculum, programming problem sets for practice, and testing it out on themselves, friends and family. Since inGenius X’s first app was certified and published, it has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, spanning 12 countries, said Rayan. Two more apps that deal with science-related subjects are finished and awaiting certification, and three more are in development, all incorporating hours of interactive practice and video lectures. In addition to the nonprofit’s digtial presence, Rayan persuaded a local university to sponsor and host HackGenius, a 24-hour hackathon featuring a computer science competition, coding workshops and speaker panels made up of rising tech leaders. The free event is designed for local students who otherwise might not have the same opportunities in computer science as those who go to school in affluent areas.