Lexington student finds an app for his talents

Creates Apple link for local-access TV

Avdeep Sahi, 16, has made a niche for himself in LexMedia’s computer lab. Avdeep Sahi, 16, has made a niche for himself in LexMedia’s computer lab. (Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Staff / January 6, 2011

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LEXINGTON — It seems like every student, in every successive grade level, has an increasingly natural feel for computers, the Internet, and the latest gadgets. Tweens and teenagers build websites, they program that tricky universal remote control, and they even write entire software programs.

But Lexington High School junior Avdeep Sahi has developed a specialty in the latest techy trend: producing iPhone and mobile applications.

Sahi, 16, didn’t know anything about programming for Apple’s popular cellphone. So he started learning. Three months later, the town’s public-access television station had its own App Store application, complete with streaming video from its library of TV programs.

“I was just curious about iPhones and everything. I owned the first iPod Touch, and I was really fascinated by all the stuff that goes into it,’’ he said.

It started with curiosity and a thirst for knowledge. Sahi picked up a few books on programming for Apple’s mobile devices. Last summer, when he needed to fulfill his Lexington High volunteer hours, he took the 20-foot walk from his family’s townhouse in Avalon at Lexington Hills to the headquarters of LexMedia, the town’s local-access cable TV system.

“He came to us and said he was interested in doing some work here,’’ said Florence DelSanto, executive director of LexMedia. “When interns come in, I sit down and try to figure out what kinds of things they can do. He said, ‘I can develop an iPhone app for you.’ ’’

Sahi spent the summer in LexMedia’s computer labs, grinding out code. When he needed help, he even teleconferenced with programmers in his native India at 3 o’clock in the morning.

All of his hard work has paid off for LexMedia.

“We would not have even thought about having an iPhone app if we had to hire someone,’’ said DelSanto. “The station is only as good as its volunteers. Having someone like Avdeep was just a bonus. And it was a really good exercise for him.’’

The application allows people to scroll through LexMedia’s archived television programs on Apple media players, including the iPad.

Sahi is still working on ways to make the application better. DelSanto said he recently added a new icon, and Sahi said he wants to stream live video from the LexMedia television channels in addition to the “on demand’’ episodes now offered. LexMedia is also in the process of launching a new website, and Sahi will tweak the design to match it.

“This was just something that came into my mind. I was always fascinated by computers, and this is something I want to do when I get into college,’’ Sahi said. “My parents always say, ‘Do whatever makes you happy, but if you’re going to do something, make sure you’re good at it. You have to excel in whatever it is you like.’ ’’

Sahi’s original summer job was caddying at a golf course in Belmont. He watched people swing the clubs and talk business, and his father posed a question about his future.

“He made a few hundred bucks, which is very lucrative, but it eventually got into his head, ‘Do I want to carry bags, or do I want to be the one playing the game?’ ’’ said Avinder Sahi, Avdeep’s father. “And I told him to build yourself intellectually if you want to play the game.’’

Avdeep does not fit the stereotype of the scrawny computer nerd. He has played wide receiver and defensive back for the Lexington High football team, and he recently brought a little bit of India to Lexington by starting a cricket club at the school.

He also created his own show on the public-access channel, “Noise Gallery,’’ which showcases local bands.

“He wants to do things, and he wants to learn. That is what is driving him,’’ said Avdeep’s mother, Gurbeena. “As parents we just say, ‘Do the right things, just go forward, and make the most of the opportunity.’ That is where we can add value, giving him the right push to be successful.’’

The Sahis moved to the United States from India in 2007. Avinder and Gurbeena work at Oracle Corp.’s Burlington office. Parents and son agreed that an American education has helped Avdeep to excel both creatively and intellectually.

“In India, academics is everything. In India, if you have the right test scores, you get into the best schools,’’ said Avinder. “That’s not the case here. You have to show what you did, show your experience, be good at sports, and then also be good at academics. People look for a well-rounded package.’’

Avdeep hopes to go to a major engineering college where he can continue to learn about computers and programming.

But he said he first wants to provide his technical services to other local groups.

“I want to do something in software engineering in the future. This is what I aspire to major in college,’’ Avdeep said.

“But for now I’d like to help more nonprofit organizations like LexMedia with projects like the app I built for them.’’

The LexMedia application is available online via iTunes or the App Store function on Apple devices.