B.C. teen develops app to help students stop forgetting homework

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It might be a lot harder for students to come up with an excuse for missed homework now that a B.C. teen has developed an app that can remind you of all your upcoming homework assignments.

Called the "Christopher Bot", the tool works on Facebook to remind students of homework deadlines.

Victoria's Alec Jones, 14, is a student at Pacific Christian school and created the app as a way to help him stay on top of all his homework assignments.

"You can think of it just like a robot that has conversations with you and it is meant to keep track of what homework you are assigned to in your classes," Jones explained.

How it works

The app works through a student's Facebook account.

Through the messenger feature, the bot sends unprompted texts to to the user throughout the school day asking whether he or she has homework and records the student's answers.

At the end of the day, the bot messages the user a list of homework assignments.

The student can tell the bot which assignments are completed — and earn praise from the bot — and the bot reorganizes the list according to priority.

Inspired by Alan Turing

The phone-based app maximizes convenience, Jones said.

"I don't want to be carrying around some extra book all day. I have my phone with me at all times. Why not just use that to keep track of my homework?"

There are other apps like to-do lists and calendars that could help students, but chat bots like Christopher Bot that work within messaging apps are relatively new to the market. Jones said he was unaware of any similar homework chat app.

As for why it's called the "Christopher Bot", Jones said he was inspired by mathematician Alan Turing who named one of his enigma-code cracking machines Christopher.

"I watched the movie [The Imitation Game] and it's one of my favourite movies and I thought I gotta find a better name for this than 'homework bot'."

More than 3,000 subscribers

The app currently has more than 3,000 international subscribers and has been the subject of media coverage from Thailand to the United Kingdom.

"It's still blows my mind every time I'd think about it," he exclaimed. "I'd never thought I'd get this 15 minutes of fame when I'm 14."

But Jones is aware that his young age is probably part of the reason the app has generated so much interest.

"Some things catch on and some things don't," he said. "I wouldn't be getting this much attention if it wasn't for my age."

He said he hopes people don't assume he's just sitting behind his computer coding for hours.

"I just got into it for the same reasons I'm into art: when you create something in your head into something people can look at or people can use," he explained.

And Jones says he probably won't be monetizing his app anytime soon.

"I hate ads and I don't want to put my users through ads."

With files from All Points West

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Alec Jones, 14, talks about his homework chat bot