Two 16-year-old students at Enloe Magnet High School in Raleigh are finalists in a contest for their app, which helps sufferers manage their COPD. Jeffrey Li and Udai Virk developed the app “Respirate” as a resource to help those diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to understand and manage their symptoms.

Lenovo paired with the National Academy Foundation (NAF) to begin its mobile app competition four years ago. Courtney Savoia, communications manager at NAF, said the competition is designed to boost STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and math) to underserved communities.

Li and Virk competed as a team along with over 500 other students across the nation. Both are what Virk describes as “pre-invested” into medical school at Enloe and found the death rate surrounding COPD alarming.

“Me and Jeffery both know quite a few people with this disease, but what we didn’t realize was that COPD is actually the third highest cause of death on a global case,” said Virk.

After deciding to create an app, the two high school students conducted their own academic research, cut and filmed instructional videos and made helpful to-do lists for patients as resources to put in their app. The next step was programming it.

Through Lenovo, they used a code from Massachusetts Institute of Technology specifically made to be simpler and more efficient.

“We started off trying to do it ourselves,” Virk said. They attempted it by watching YouTube videos they found online, but once they eventually got stuck they reached out to their advisors who could guide them through the new language.

According to research done by Virk and Li, most patients manage their COPD through one-on-one work with a doctor, usually during an in-home visit, a visit not often covered by health insurance.

Virk and Li wanted to create something accessible and free to all patients. Respirate does what doctors can’t do — reminds the user to do daily exercises, calculates BMI and gives the user goals through to-do lists.

Out of more than 100 apps submitted to the NAF competition, six were chosen by a panel of judges to move onto the next round of the competition.

“It was pretty competitive,” Li said. “At our school, we had another team we were friends with, so it was friendly competition.”

The six apps that were selected are competing for a “fan favorite,” voted on by the general public. The prize for winners is Lenovo gear. But for Virk and Li, they see the greater prize as more recognition.

“Me and Jeffrey were hoping to take the app to [doctors] and advertise it and give it to their patients,” Virk said. “And we did contact some, but they wanted to know where the app went before.”

Virk said the healthcare providers he and Li reached out to were skeptical about Respirate. Winning could mean more patients having access to the app and more doors being opened, which is their ultimate goal.

To watch all six videos and vote online for an app, visit Lenovo’s website.

The Respirate app is available for download only for Android devices through the Google Play store.