Local students create videoconferencing platform

The Alattis team
The Alattis team includes Mission Bay High seniors Leah Markworth, Jacob Mandel, Carmel Valley resident James Ward, William Olsker and Patrick Sanchez
(Kylie Fernandez)

A group of Mission Bay High School seniors created a new videoconferencing platform built by students, for students. Called Alattis, the platform aims to provide a better and more collaborative online learning experience and opportunities to overcome geographical barriers, giving educators more power to reach historically disadvantaged communities.

Now in beta mode, Alattis was created by a team of students including Carmel Valley resident James Ward, 17, William Olsker, Jacob Mandel, Leah Markworth and Patrick Sanchez.

Last year the group also won first place in the Nick Cannon Foundation’s America’s Teen Mogul Student Business Plan Competition, taking in a $10,000 prize to kickstart their business.

The idea for Alattis started out in the entrepreneurial club at Mission Bay High. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team decided to create their own platform in order to combat some of the issues they were seeing with Zoom and other video conferencing platforms in their distance learning.

College Career and Technical Education teacher David West served as the students’ mentor on their project. Jacob Mandel, the team’s hardware specialist, leads the hardware initiative to create tools for hybrid learning.

Alattis is set up with the teacher on a “stage” and students in round “tables” that easily facilitate group discussions. The platform uses circles versus a grid format.

The platform promises more effective breakout rooms and one page provides students with access to all of their classes, “It really just simplifies everything,” said Carmel Valley’s James Ward, who serves as co-founder and chief operations officer.

Analytics show teachers things like attendance and each student’s talking time, to gauge how much they participated in a lesson. Every meeting is recorded and transcribed so students can take advantage of replaying a class. The replays are also searchable by keyword or topic.

Alattis is also meant to be inclusive— the students designed the platform with feedback from special education teachers and disability advocates.

Alattis launched in 2021 and it was used in history, engineering and Mandarin classes at Mission Bay High and in other district middle schools.

“It was pretty cool,” said Ward of their work being put to use. “Students were really excited about it.”

In light of the recent teacher shortage, Ward said Alattis has shifted the focus of their platform to giving schools another option when lacking sufficient students or teachers to run their classes.

As they work on the second version of their program, they’re talking to charter schools and other districts about using Alattis for distributed learning.

“Our mission with the distributed learning program is to provide an equitable education to students at schools that may not have access to the resources required to deliver quality instruction to students,” Ward said. “If a district isn’t well funded they can share teachers and students within their schools so they still have access to classes.”

The possibility for Alattis to help schools and students to connect with each other throughout the country and the world in one virtual classroom is a very rewarding prospect for the students.

In addition to his entrepreneurial efforts Ward, an International Baccalaureate student, also plays rugby and tennis. Next year, he will attend the University of Pennslyvania’s Wharton School of Business.

To check out Alattis, visit alattis.com