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Houston student’s award-winning app honors his grandfather’s legacy

Jones Mays II
Jones Mays II

Jones Mays II won a worldwide coding competition for young people with his app that detects dangerous or invasive plants.

Jones Mays II started coding a couple of years ago when he took a computer science principles class. He’s now a senior at Houston’s Carnegie Vanguard High School, and he seems to have learned his lessons well, because he just won Apple’s Swift Student Challenge, a worldwide competition where winners get help and guidance from Apple engineers, along with coding resources to help with their projects. Mays’ app is called Ivy, and it uses machine learning and location information to detect invasive or dangerous plants.

Jones Mays II

“It detects the top five invasive vines in the United States. So the kudzu vine, the Chinese wisteria, Japanese honeysuckle and vines of that nature… There will be a popup of what the vine actually is, for example, how it grows, what it looks like, and most importantly, how to safely remove it.“

“The inspiration for Ivy is actually quite personal. My grandfather in Tunica, Mississippi, had a community garden, and in this garden he grew everything under the sun, from squash to cucumbers to watermelon and corn… Unfortunately, he did die at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s why I really want to pay tribute to his legacy and the ways that he would help his community, through building Ivy.”

“I actually secured a position at Code Wiz Houston and I’ll be teaching the next generation of students what it means to learn about computer science, and what even is computer science… Ultimately, I believe that computer science can provide some of these tools for socioeconomic economic mobility.”