September 29, 2023

Student Led Start-Up, Vytal: Two high school students prove it’s never too early to pursue your goals

Rohan Kalahasty, 18, and Sai Mattapalli, 17, spent their summer laying the foundation for a groundbreaking startup, Vytal, that has the potential to revolutionize how we detect cognitive decline in older adults using artificial intelligence (AI).

Their efforts highlight the power of using technology for good, and that students are never too young to make a difference. Kalahasty and Mattapalli’s technological breakthrough reveals the importance of equipping students with the skills to use tech positively so that they can follow in Kalahasty and Mattapalli’s footsteps. 

How student-led Vytal Works

Kalahasty and Mattapalli, both high school students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, share a deep passion for technology and AI. With their existing knowledge of eye tracking for brain health, and their desire to produce an easily accessible platform for the technology, they were able to develop Vytal. 

Here is how the AI technology works: 

  • The site uses your laptop or smartphone camera to perform rapid eye tracking and biometric calculations by merely scanning your eye. 
  • From there, the medical AI tool will look for any preexisting signs in your anatomy that highlight the early stages of mental decline. 

What sets Vytal apart is its simplicity and affordability. While existing technologies for monitoring cognitive function through eye tracking can cost upwards of $4,000, Vytal leverages the built-in cameras of laptops and smartphones for rapid eye tracking. This means that individuals can assess their cognitive health from the comfort of their homes in just a few minutes.

Why Educators Should Care

Students can’t be what they can’t see, and role models like Kalahasty and Mattapalli inspire students to work towards their goals, no matter their age. As Kalahasty said, “We may be young, but we hope to make a real difference with this technology.”

The groundbreaking technology developed by these two teens highlights how no student is too young to pursue their passions. Whether a student wants to build their own digital platform, be a professional athlete, a painter, or a teacher, educators can share this story to inspire creativity and how to use tech for good to pursue dreams and goals. 

Empowering students to take action on their goals translates into the classroom as well.  An American Society for Quality (ASQ) survey indicates that 46 percent of teens are afraid of taking risks or failing. When students don’t succeed on assignments, quizzes, or tests, this fear gets even worse, and it’s important that educators encourage their students not to give up, even when they don’t succeed. Success stories like these help students overcome their fear of failure, and will ultimately assist them in school and in life. 

TSI’s Take

Rohan Kalahasty and Sai Mattapalli’s journey with Vytal exemplifies the power of youthful innovation and technology for social good. Empowering students to use tech for good, in and out of the classroom, reminds students that social media and technology are more than just a place to connect with friends or be entertained by funny videos or memes. They can use both to follow their dreams and even change the world. Here are some tips we recommend for educators to inspire creativity and positivity in their students:

  • Share the 5 easy ways students can use tech for good at home. Whether it is showing your appreciation for friends and family online, surprising someone with a digital gift, or sharing uplifting stories on social media, it’s easy for students to make a helpful impact online.
  • Challenge your students to do at least one act of kindness online each day. Afterward, huddle with your students to see how they creatively used tech for good. That way, not only can they inspire you, but they can inspire each other. 
  • Discuss the different ways technology can assist in school and daily life. There are several programs online that exist to help students navigate the day, such as:
    • Todoist: one of the top project planning and daily organizer apps for students. This app allows students to easily see and track their short-term and long-term tasks, right from their device.
    • ChatGPT: While the AI platform is under controversy for its ability to help students cheat, it can just as easily be used to help students learn. Show your students how the AI tool can be used to help them study, search for information, and answer random questions they may have. Bonus points if you try some questions in ChatGPT with your students!
    • #WinAtSocial: The Social Institute’s platform with a gamified curriculum that empowers students to make positive, high-character decisions online and off. These interactive lessons give students the knowledge and skills to navigate social media and other challenges they encounter. To get started with the platform, you can request a demo here today. 

Find out how you can empower your students to use tech for good by checking out how The Epstein School incorporated social media and technology education in a positive way that resonates with students. 

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