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Teen prodigy urges peers to develop their ideas

Aanikh Kler addresses a room full of kids and teens at Surrey
Aanikh Kler addresses a room full of kids and teens at Surrey's Teen Hackathon
— image credit: Evan Seal/Surrey Leader

Sixteen-year-old Vancouver student Aanikh Kler has been speaking to other kids about pursuing and developing their ideas in the wake of his Dragon's Den appearance, where he scored a deal with Arlene Dickinson on his ringtone app, UndrTheRadr.

On Tuesday afternoon, he spoke to about 25 teens at the City of Surrey's first Teen Hackathon at City Centre Library, where students brought their laptops, tablets and smartphones to try and use open data available online to design a useful app for the city.

"Part of my [public] speaking is I get to see all the amazing things cities and schools are now doing to help foster innovation and ideas," said Kler. "I think an event like this where you have people that know so much about apps and creating them can help piece the idea and the technical aspect together, which will actually help in creating apps going forward."

Also at the event were representatives from Microsoft and Mozilla, the company that created the Firefox browser, as well as Surrey's geographic information systems manager, Sean Simpson, who said that the aim of the hackathon was for youth to start thinking about ways they can develop technology to help others.

"We want to get them involved in social issues and civic issues and try to make them civic-minded. We also know that teenagers never leave a smart phone; it's always in their hand," said Simpson. "We want to try to connect them with issues that are civic issues, with technology. So today we're trying to connect the dots for them."

Lectures included an explanation of what open data is (unrestricted information) and how it can be utilized in the creation of apps, as well as other programs which can be used to design visually appealing apps and combine data sets to create original apps.

Some of the ideas floating around the room included an app that maps the locations of alternative fuel stations, a pay parking locator and a program that combines city points of information with climate data.

Holy Cross High School student Savio Neyyan said he was really enjoying his first hackathon experience.

"The guy who made that app was really inspiring," said Neyyan. "This whole program really seems informational for me. I'm learning a lot about apps and open data; it's pretty fun."

Before creating UndrTheRadr, which emits a ringtone that only young people can hear, Kler said he had no app-designing experience and doesn't want that to stand in anyone else's way either.

"If you're passionate, people will realize that and they'll try to help you," said Kler. "My advice for other teenagers would be that if you're passionate and you believe in it, other people are going to believe in it, so really believe in yourself and do the best you can and things will go well for you."

Simpson urged anyone like Aanikh who has an idea to approach the city with it.

"We want to work with you and we're going to provide tools and lessons on how you might proceed in doing that," said Simpson. "So we welcome any insight or any thoughts or ideas and we'll help you develop those ideas."

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