Every parent can recall a time when their child forgot something at home, left something at school, or forgot to turn in homework. Alex Pissinou Makki, 17, a junior at Ransom Everglades School, has used his computer science background to solve all of those problems.
“I had a childhood friend who did his homework, but would constantly forget to turn it in,” Alex said. “He would also forget to put some of his items, like his computer or his math book, back in his bag.”
Because of forgetting his homework in his bag, Alex’s friend’s grades suffered. Alex knew there had to be a solution to this problem, which many students have. According to the business plan he submitted to the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, most K-12 students neglect to turn in completed homework at some point.
“I came up with an innovative solution of a backpack that could remind the student to put their items back in their backpack,” Alex said.
At Ransom Everglades, Alex has taken three computer science classes, including AP Computer Science, considered one of the most difficult courses, where he earned a 5 on the AP exam — the highest score possible.
And computer science is something that runs in the family: Both his parents are computer science professors at Florida International University and have published multiple papers in the field.
“I really like technology and math and science, but also I really do enjoy business and economics,” Alex said.
Instead of spending his summers relaxing, Alex has taken summer internships at FIU, including a Google Workshop. At these internships, he learned not only technical skills, but research and entrepreneurial skills.
He applied these skills to a school project for his AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics classes; both semester classes are taught by Jennifer Nero.
“The business plan assignment is part of my curriculum for the micro class because we study different market models and the resource market and entrepreneurship,” Nero said.
Alex said Nero has been a tremendous help in shaping his product, by giving him ideas of new markets to tap into.
When Alex presented his idea to Nero, she saw a lot of promise. She said that she was impressed with how Alex noticed this problem that many students have.
“The idea resonated with me. He was keen enough to observe problems that have existed among his peers, his classmates. He was right on the money when he identified this as something that would speak to kids his age,” Nero said.
His business plan for Smart-BagPack was so impressive that it was awarded second place in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge High School track, which attracted 104 entries.
Smart-BagPack is a backpack that tags items students keep in their bag. Using a proprietary tracking algorithm Alex developed, the backpack keeps track of which items are in or out of the backpack.
Students can be reminded to put things back in their bookbag through alerts from the bag or through a smartphone app. On the app, students can also find services such as tutoring and can contact other users in the area.
While creating the tracking algorithm, Alex found that it was a challenge to make sure the idea couldn’t be replicated. He hopes to get patents for Smart-BagPack and then license the product to existing backpack companies.
“We have to make sure that this idea can’t be easily copied,” Alex said.
Alex’s goal is to get the product in stores.
“It will be used to help people not forget their items. It’s for kids and parents and professionals who don’t want to forget their items,” Alex said.