Anika Thompson became enamored of computers at the age of 8. Now, at 17, she has parlayed her interest into a software program that she designed and is marketing to school districts throughout Maryland.
The program has been accepted by 10 schools involved with the Maryland Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement program (MESA), a pre-college program for minority and female students interested in science, engineering and other math-related fields. Twenty-seven other schools are reviewing her program.
Anika, president of the MESA chapter at Oakland Mills High xTC School, is believed to be the first student awarded such a contract by MESA, and she also hopes to market the program to schools out-of-state. She is selling the software for $95 a program, and plans to use the money for her college education.
She said she spent four months developing the software. "She saw the problem and came up with an answer using her technological skills," said MESA program coordinator Norma F. Boyd of the software package.
Anika said she became interested in computers in grade school, when her father bought a computer. She soon learned computer languages.
The program the Oakland Mills senior designed is a database that organizes student records, workgroup activities, and events. The software is compatible with MacIntosh computers.
"It takes all the paperwork away," said Anika, an articulate, yet reserved young woman. "It's completely automated."
"There's a lot of flexibility," Anika said. "You can create lists galore." Schools who have purchased the program intend to use it to record data about their MESA students.
Her father, Khalil Abdul Rahman, who helped her developthe program, said the software will save users time and money.
"Different people have different handwriting, people put emphasis on different things," Mr. Rahman said. "This provides a common language and common format. It'll be easier to compile the results."
Anika said she got the idea for the database by watching harried MESA coordinators struggle to compile information on hundreds students.
"After her initial success, she spent several months developing the program. She would come in so frustrated," recalled her mother, Dee Thompson.
When Anika encountered problems, she turned to her father, who heads Mezzan Services in Columbia, a general management consulting firm specializing in information systems.
"My dad would say, 'just work it out,' " she recalled, smiling.
Shortly before school started, Anika presented the database to state MESA coordinator Norma F. Boyd, who decided to buy the program after speaking to MESA coordinators.