Students from Montgomery County, Maryland, found out Tuesday that they were among the winners in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. They will receive $20,000 to develop their idea, called AutBuddy, into a mobile app. (Verizon)

On Tuesday, a team of six middle-schoolers from Montgomery County, Maryland, won a national app design contest — and took a big step toward helping kids with autism.

The team was one of eight national winners in the annual Verizon Innovative App Challenge, which encourages kids to create an idea for a mobile app that will help their school or community solve a problem. The students won $20,000 to turn their app idea into a reality this spring, along with help from tech experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Eashana Subramanian, a sixth-grader at Rocky Hill Middle School in Clarksburg, was inspired to make the app by her sister, who has autism. The disorder can make it difficult to focus on daily tasks or to communicate with others, so Eashana and her teammates in the Adventure in Science program devised AutBuddy, which uses customized rewards to help kids with autism stay focused and express themselves.

AutBuddy will also help parents and teachers communicate about how kids are doing.

“Parents want to know what’s happening in school so they can fine-tune their routine at home,” explained the team’s coach and adviser, Siva Reddy.

Along with Eashana, the team includes Ojas Jagtap, Madhuri Kola and Reddy’s son Saahith Tupakula, all of Rocky Hill; Raiyan Rizwan of Parkland Middle School in Rockville; and Neha Chandra of Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown.

Reddy says the app will be available to download from Google Play by June 1, with an Apple version following soon after.

YouTube: AIS JHU Team

Harrison Smith