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Thai College Students Design App to Help Rescue Disaster Survivors

A new student-designed mobile app could make finding disaster survivors much easier.

In the aftermath of every disaster—from Haiti's devastating earthquake to Japan's earthquake and tsunami—one of the challenges rescue workers always face is pinpointing the exact location of survivors. In 2010, four college students from Thailand's Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok—Kriangkrai Pipatvilaikul, 20; Wannapon Suraworachet, 21; Tanon Sirawan, 20; and Jirapat Yaovatsakul, 20—witnessed first-hand the impact of devastating floods on their homeland. So, they came up with a tech-based solution to connect disaster victims with help.

Their effort, Terra Project, uses mobile phones to let survivors "broadcast their location through social networks such as Facebook with one click in the event of a disaster." This week the four students, who call themselves Team NewKrean, headed to New York City for Microsoft's Imagine Cup, a technology competition for socially conscious high school and college students. (we've covered several of the other young finalists here, here, here and here). They shared with us what first got them interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and what's next for their project.

GOOD: When you all were kids, what first inspired your interest in STEM?

NewKrean: As a kid, all four of us were already into STEM. Jirapat, the physicist, always wanted to predict the future. Kriangkrai, the chemist, wanted to be a potion master. Wannapon, the programmer, wanted to make her own program. Tanon, who is still undecided, wanted to change the world. Even as time passed, we still hold on to those dreams and pursue the field of STEM to achieve our dream.

GOOD: What do you think schools and governments should be doing to get more students interested in STEM?

NewKrean: The dreams of many children to become physicists, engineers or rocket scientists are always there. But the reality of actually living the dream is very costly and filled with obstacles. And it does not get any better when the government tries to encourage our passion but provide no support for the inspired. Therefore, I would hope the government would support those in the country who are already inspired to achieve success. Thus, nurturing the inspired in the most crucial point for the government.

GOOD: Do you have investors interested in your project?

NewKrean: The Red Cross Thailand Department of IT has expressed that our application is what they would like to invest in and collaborate with!

GOOD: What has been most exciting about participating in the Imagine Cup?

NewKrean: The past few months has been like taking a super growth vitamin pill from little programmers to larger software developers, with social benefit built in mind. We can't imagine and can't wait to see how much we’ll grow.

We'll be interviewing our other top picks of the best student projects competing in the Imagine cup over the coming week.

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