By Sarah Goodman
Rabat – When Omar Elamri met with Apple’s midwest representatives to present his new application, Digitr, the company officials said they had never seen an app “this extensive” from someone so young, and they congratulated the 13-year-old Moroccan-American for his “inspiring” work.
Digitr, available for free on the iTunes Store, came about as a paperless way to monitor students in school hallways. Traditionally, teachers would issue paper permission slips for students to leave a classroom unattended. Now, Digitr allows teachers and students to keep track of this electronically via school-issued iPads.
Michelle Brunik, a computer science teacher at Minnetonka Middle School East where Elamri studies, said the app lets teachers “effortlessly keep track of students leaving the room” and credited it with “helping students develop time management skills.”
“It’s been helpful in taming the traffic of students coming in and out of the classroom, and it allows for better classroom management. It also records data to help administrators, teachers, and parents understand when students are leaving class and why,” Brunik explains in a video on the Digitr website.
Elamri was born in New York City but grew up in the American Midwestern state of Minnesota. He admits that, at this point, he prefers the Minnesota Twins to the New York Yankees, although it is also evident that neither baseball team interests him as much as coding does. Speaking over Skype, Elamri describes himself as “school-oriented” and “by nature shy,” but he visibly brightens when discussing different syntax for computer coding and the technical aspects of building Digitr.
Elamri began the initial coding for a paperless hall pass in 2016 on the suggestion of a teacher as part of a computer science program offered through the school. Via email, he reflected that he wanted “to start from scratch and create a legit app.”
“I love coding and anything Apple. So in between classes and school breaks, I found myself learning other coding applications so that I will be able to create an app worthy of my school.”
At the time, Elamri was 12.
By January 2017, Elamri had created mPass, an earlier iteration of Digitr. Minnetonka East recognized the app’s potential and deployed it throughout the school. According to Brunik, the application has been “incredibly successful” at Minnetonka, and she believes it would “be a great service to any school setting.”
Elamri decided to rename his app Digitr to “reflect its wider commercial application for other schools.”
To date, there are 24 schools using Digitr: 19 in Minnesota; two in neighboring Wisconsin; and one each in California, Texas, and Washington.
Elamri is quick to thank the middle school teachers who mentored him early on, the public schools he attends, and an after-school club for students who love to code, “Coders Unite.”
“If not for the STEM funding in our school, I would not probably have the opportunity to create this app that helps our school and hopefully, can be used by other schools too here in the US and beyond.”
The multi-talented teen hopes his story “will inspire many young Moroccans around the world to pursue their passion, keep on tweaking and perfecting their skills, and be a part of making technology serve a better world for the next generations.”
Omar’s father Adil, a Casablanca native, told Morocco World News that he hopes his son’s example will serve as a “leap-off point” and “inspire” other young people “no matter the age or religion.”