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A Harvest Park Middle School (HPMS) student has created a new campus-based app, and all participants have to do to access it is say, “Hey Alexa!”

Seventh-grader Maya Tout implemented the Amazon Alexa Skill, an app that allows users, through their voices, to perform everyday tasks like checking the news, listening to music and more.

In her spare time during the last weeks of summer break, Maya developed the Skill and tailored it for Harvest Park. She said Alexa can answer questions about the school’s calendar and location.

“The Alexa Skill is to tell information about the school,” she said. “If you want to know when a break is, the Alexa can get something from a website, no matter what the year is, and return it back and give you the date of, say, the last day of school … Because I recently started coding, I decided I wanted to make an Alexa Skill. I thought it would be cool.”

Maya used her newly acquired coding knowledge and many YouTube videos to help her. She also drew on her parents and the internet for answers when she hit a stumbling block. In the end, she said it did not take long to create the Skill, and she enjoyed the process.

“I didn’t know how to do it straight off the bat, so I started learning,” she said, adding that she was inspired to create the Skill by her father who used to work for Amazon. “Then I started trying to make it on my own. And after two weeks or so, it was complete. It wasn’t that long.”

Maya did not create the Skill at her school’s request but did notify them once it was complete.

“Maya's project is amazing, and we are so proud of her innovative use of technology to help others learn about Harvest Park Middle School,” said HPMS Principal Russell Campisi. “Keep up the great work, Maya!”

A lifelong Pleasanton resident, Maya looks forward to attending Amador Valley High School in two years. She will likely focus her studies on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects, such as computer science.

For now, she is enjoying middle school and hopes to continue to work on her coding skills.

“I just found coding one day and thought it would be a nice hobby I would like,” she said. “I started coding about a year ago. I used to do a program called Scratch then I advanced from that and actually started coding. It’s something I just do on my own at home.”

To add the Harvest Park Information Skill to any Alexa, log into the managing account, search for the Skill, and enable it. The Skill cannot be added by simply speaking to the Alexa device.