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Victoria Walker, 11, wins $20,000 to create anti-texting app

September 20, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • Victoria Walker, 11, and David Grau present their app Rode Dog at an AT&T "Hackathon" earlier this month.
Victoria Walker, 11, and David Grau present their app Rode Dog at an AT&T… (Courtesy of AT&T )

Bark. Bark.

Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark.

Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark.Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark.

That's the sound of Rode Dog, an app designed by sixth-grader Victoria Walker in collaboration with David Grau, a creative director and designer at WLDG, an interactive agency in Santa Ana.

All that barking is designed to get you to stop texting and driving.

And they just got $20,000 from AT&T to bring it to market.

Walker and Grau created Rode Dog at the "It Can Wait" Hackathon run by AT&T in Los Angeles. A total of 120 people came out for the initial two-day event held Sept. 7-8. Participants were asked to develop an app that discourages people from texting and driving. 

Walker and Grau's team took the top prize out of a pool of five semifinalists.

They are still working out the kinks on Rode Dog with a developer, but the basic idea is that users of the app can join a "pack" of friends and family members and then check to see if other members of their pack are using their phone to text while driving. If they are, then a pack member can send them an audible bark. The driver's phone will then bark incessantly until they acknowledge the bark and silence it.

Grau, who met Walker at the Hackathon, said the idea of the bark is not dissimilar to cars that ding at you until you put on your seat belt, causing frustration but ultimately compliance.

"It can get really annoying, that chime," he said.

The team also created a pet shop where you can purchase other animal sounds. So if you prefer, Rode Dog can cluck at you like a chicken or roar at you like a lion.

Walker, who is just 11 years old, said she conceived of this app after listening to her three dogs bark and thinking that the sound would be a good deterrent from doing just about anything.

She added that the app gives her agency over the driving habits of others.

"This app allows me to protect my parents if they are driving and texting," she said. 

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