Senior creates mobile app, wins annual Congressional App Challenge


Courtesy of Wayt

Wayt is a mobile app designed to optimize communications between businesses and customers.

By Arjun Maitra, St. John's School - TX

After observing challenges in the retail and service industry during COVID-19, senior Ethan Saadia created Wayt, a mobile app designed to optimize communications between businesses and customers. 

“When the pandemic first started, there was a lot of conversation about how to reopen businesses and how to keep people safe,” Saadia said. “Why can’t we do both?” 

Wayt, which allows users to coordinate curbside pickups, join virtual lines and reserve appointment slots, won the annual Congressional App Challenge for Texas’s 7th Congressional District in December 2020. Designed to promote student participation in STEM, the Congressional App Challenge is considered the most prestigious prize for youth passionate about computer science. 

After winning the competition, Saadia met Congresswoman Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (‘93).

“I was honored that she took the time out of her busy schedule to speak with me and discuss why she personally loves the app,” Saadia said.

Saadia noticed that many businesses have struggled to execute curbside pickup. According to Forbes, the unexpected surge in e-commerce due to COVID-19 has caused challenges for businesses as their websites often lacked the infrastructure to make online shopping seamless.

“Curbside pickup was a very convenient option during the pandemic, but the process was fragmented,” Saadia said. “Each time you reached a store, you had to find a number to call the store. You had to wait for them to pick up and give them your name, your order, what car you’re in and how to find you.”

The pandemic has accelerated innovation at an unimaginable rate, and smarter shopping is just one of these trends.”

— Ethan Saadia

When registering for the app, customers input their vehicle information and preferences, such as where they want their purchases to be loaded into the car. Once registered, they tap a button to alert the business of their arrival, and Wayt automatically conveys the other relevant information to the business. 

After initially developing Wayt to facilitate curbside pickups, Saadia started diversifying the app by making it available on both iOS and Android and adding features to account for virus-related capacity restrictions.

Saadia has advertised Wayt through pamphlets, social media marketing and personally reaching out to businesses. He also launched a website hoping to bring more businesses on board.

Saadia’s main challenge with Wayt is making sure that everything works “in real time.”

“The main goal is to make sure that everything works within one tap and both the business and the customer get notifications instantly,” Saadia said. 

Saadia anticipates that Wayt will outlive the COVID-19 crisis due to the lifestyle shifts the pandemic has caused.

“The pandemic has accelerated innovation at an unimaginable rate, and smarter shopping is just one of these trends,” Saadia said.

While Saadia enjoys building apps, his favorite part of being a developer is watching customers use his creations. 

“Seeing my work in action and being able to walk around and see people using my apps is the best feeling in the world,” Saadia said. “Having something on the App Store, watching it make an impact and solving challenges that people are experiencing today is incredible.”

This story was originally published on The Review on February 9, 2021.