In Texas, a teenage Latina developed an application for Amazon Alexa that allows immigrants to safely ask and obtain answers to vital questions in either English or Spanish.
Through Immigration Bonds, an Alexa Skill, people can ask the device questions like, “How long does it take to get a visa?” or “Am I allowed to get a driver’s license in my city?” Suguey Carmona, 14, created the app after witnessing her family, which hails from Mexico, and friends struggle to find answers due to language barriers, confusion and fear of deportation.
“I chose to work on this technology because I see my own friends and family who have questions and who are struggling to make a living, and I thought maybe I should do something about it,” Carmona told NBC News.
The student at KIPP Brave High School in Austin, Texas first became interested in coding after taking a computer class in the sixth grade. Soon after, she joined Hello World, a computer science program in Austin and San Francisco for K-12 students. There, she began to learn about various programming languages and became passionate about using her new skills to help the immigrant community.
She started by asking the immigrants in her life what was the most important information they needed and questions they had. She followed this up with research on how to obtain paperwork, find employment and other necessities.
“I’d work on it for hours each day,” Carmona said. “I’d start a new paper and it would crash and break and I’d be like, ‘Oh, shoot. Now I have to start over again.’”
Sabina Bharwani, the founder of Hello World, said the Alexa interface is usually used by developers with 10 to 15 years of experience, making it difficult for Carmona to initially navigate it. However, with several trials and errors, Bharwani said the teen “mastered it.”
Immigration Bonds is available in the Amazon app store, and Carmona has plans to adapt it and release it as an Apple app as well.
“I want to continue coding and developing this app,” Carmona said. “And then when I finish debugging this app and putting it in the Apple app store so people can use my creation, I’ll move on to the next project.”