ATLANTA — Eleven-year-old Aesha Bhatt spent her time during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown learning how to code and develop apps. She recently designed and launched one that allows students to anonymously report bullying to school counselors.
"You can sign up as a counselor or a student," Bhatt explained. "You can report bullying to the counselor. You can also get like advice if you're getting bullied, and what to do."
The app is already available in the Google Play store and coming soon to Apple. Bhatt says she's working with local school districts to offer it up for free.
Bhatt admits her decision to dive into coding stemmed from boredom during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
"Students really didn't have anything to do, we couldn't go outside or anything," she said. "So I tried to make it enjoyable for myself.”
She did that by signing up for BYJU's FutureSchool, an online tech and coding education program for kids.
Between March and August 2020, enrollment in FutureSchool increased by 26,863%, from 96 students in Jan/Feb to 25,885 students by the end of August.
Their final assignment was to design an app, and Bhatt decided to create the functional bullying reporting system.
The goal was personal for the 6th grader, who immigrated to the US from India with her family when she was seven years old.
She’s found success and acceptance, but knows that doesn’t always come easy.
“I think that some students may not like to tell it to adults [about bullying] in person, they're really scared," Bhatt explained. "So maybe if it could be anonymously online, it would be like easier for them to deal with it.”
She's finished with FutureSchool and is focused on her next project, helping her mom launch a cooking channel.
"I created this website to basically create more publicity for her YouTube channel," Bhatt said. "It's about like cooking and stuff and how to make Indian dishes."
Her parents Hita and Mehul Bhatt couldn't be prouder.
"Whatever she does, she gives 100 percent," Mehul said. "I never expected this. The way she has been developing the apps in just in the span of one year, I mean, it's incredible."
Monday marked national STEM day, meant to encourage kids to explore the fields of science, tech, engineering, and math.
Especially women, who only make up 29% of STEM jobs and 3% of STEM CEO positions.
Taking on the male-dominated world of tech is Bhatt, a little girl with a big heart and a whole lot to prove.
“I feel really proud of myself," Bhatt said. "At this very young age, I did not expect me to accomplish something so big.”