O'Fallon Progress

Shiloh teenager’s computer app is finalist in national competition

Lindsey Berry of Shiloh has developed a computer app to help people who have been diagnosed with autism under other people’s emotions.
Lindsey Berry of Shiloh has developed a computer app to help people who have been diagnosed with autism under other people’s emotions. mhodapp@bnd.com

Lindsey Berry was never into video games. That’s at least until now.

Earlier this year, the 14-year-old from Shiloh developed Something to Enhance Emotional Recognition (STEER), a computer application to help autistic kids understand the emotions of others.

Lindsey’s effort isn’t going unnoticed.

Earlier this month, her game was selected as a finalist out of hundreds of entrants. in this year’s ProjectCSGirls competition, which had more than 500 middle school girls from more than 35 states participating. Lindsey was the lone state finalist.

This was the first time, Lindsey, the daughter of Major General Warren and Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col Marie Berry of Shiloh, entered the national competition.

ProjectCSGIRLS is a national youth-driven nonprofit working to close the tech gender gap through running a national computer science competition for middle school girls and workshops around the country. The ProjectCSGIRLS Competition for Middle School Girls challenges participants in sixth to eighth grade to build something using computer science and technology that can help solve an imminent social problem under one of three themes — global health, a safer world, and intelligent technology. The program pairs students with mentors who are either college students majoring in engineering or tech professionals working in the industry to prepare them for their futures as the technological leaders of tomorrow.

Marie Berry described her daughter as being “bright” and “certainly talented.”

But when this ProjectCSGirls opportunity came up in February, Marie said her daughter was feeling pretty overwhelmed with her schoolwork and confirmation.

“I told her, ‘These sort of opportunities don’t really come around. I can help you find the time. I think this is very important.’”

Lindsey now aspires to maker her app even better.

“If I were given another opportunity to resubmit it, I might look at tackling those bigger things,” she said.

A 2016 Summa Cum Laude graduate of Shiloh Middle School, Lindsey said her inspiration came from her former language arts teacher, who has a son diagnosed with autism.

“Realizing he was into computers, I thought this could help him and a lot others, too,” she said.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

Children diagnosed with ASD often find it hard to:

▪  ecognize facial expressions and the emotions behind them;

▪  copy or use emotional expressions;

▪  understand and control their own emotions; and

▪  understand and interpret emotions — they might lack, or seem to lack, empathy with others.

Lindsey said it took her about two days to make her game.

“And it was actually a lot of fun to make,” she said. “I really like using computers and programming really clicks with me and it’s really fun to do. I get to tell the computer what to do and it does exactly what I tell it to do.”

Lindsey likes to stay busy. She is currently taking singing, violin and dance lessons. Lindsey dances five to eight hours weekly, taking dancing lessons in jazz, modern, ballet, pointe and Broadway. In the past, she also took tap dance and Irish tap lessons.

Lindsey said she can also sing any genre, except for rock-n-roll.

“I don’t scream very well,” she said.

This fall, Lindsey will be enrolled in a number of honor classes at O’Fallon Township High School.

In the future, Lindsey said she might be a scientist, a computer coder, or teacher. She might even become a dancer, or a member of the orchestra or singer.

“But I’m still waiting to see what I like to do best,” she said. “Right now, I love doing it all.”

She also sees herself being president of the United States, because she likes to work with people and to guide people. She said she also like to hear other people’s views and to help others

“That’s what I would aim for her,” she said. “I feel like I want to make sure I explore everything before I start finalizing what I want to do.”

Growing up in a military family, Lindsey is now living in her 10th house. She was born in Montgomery, Ala., before she moved to Maryland. From Maryland, she moved to Germany, and Georgia. After living in Georgia, she moved to Virginia, and back to Germany for a second time before she moved to her present home in Shiloh.

Lindsey, however, doesn’t have any aspirations of serving in the military at this time. As she sees it, she “already has served her time” being a military child.

“It takes a lot to be part of a military family,” she said. “It’s definitely worth it, but I’d like to stay in one place if I have the chance.”

Mark Hodapp: 618-239-2688