High school student develops app that teaches sign language

PINECREST, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida student is using her skills to make it easier for people to learn sign language.

Seventeen-year-old Gulliver Prepatory student Victoria Rios is a senior and shares a passion for computers. “Programming and computer science is my number one passion,” said Rios.

She created an app that aims to help others learn sign language. Her motivation? Her 9-year-old sister, Zoe.

“Since she was born, she has had a lot of disabilities,” said Rios. “That includes deafness.”

Zoe was born with a condition called Charge Syndrome, which affects facial nerves. “One of the biggest challenges that our family has faced with Zoe is communicating with her,” said Lisset Rios, Victoria and Zoe’s mother.

When Victoria had the opportunity to combine two important parts of her life, she jumped at the chance.

She entered the Congressional App Challenge, a competition that encourages high school students to learn coding by making their own phone application.

Victoria's app as it's being developed
Victoria’s app as it’s being developed

“The purpose of it was to make an app that could somehow benefit people,” said Victoria. “So, I thought a good idea would be sign language.”

Victoria’s app teaches simple American Sign Language words and lets users quiz themselves. “Well, this is the code for it on the right,” she explained. “On the left is what it would look like on your phone. There are two sections: the learn and the quiz section.”

Her passion and talent was apparent, and she ended up being selected the winner in her district.

Now, Victoria will have until April to polish the app before presenting it in front of congress.

“The pivotal point and what makes the difference in this app is the fact that Vicky has a connection to making sure this app is very successful,” said Victoria’s teacher, Dean Morrell.

Although, in the face of her success, Victoria does not forget to mention her source of inspiration. “[Zoe] was definitely born with a lot of challenges, but she has been a strong little girl,” said Victoria. “She has inspired me because I know she’s gone through so much in her life.”

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