Mays II, 17, is a senior student at Carnegie Vanguard High School in Houston, Texas, and has successfully developed and founded an app using both his passions of gardening and technology.
“My family on my mother’s side are originally from Tunica, Mississippi. Every summer, I remember my mother shipping me off with my grandfather so that I could help him run his yard and community garden,” Mays II said. “That’s the most distinctive thing I remember.”
Mays II says his grandfather grew everything from okra, watermelon, and plenty more to serve those in the community.
“In this garden, I remember every morning we had to wake up to pull off the vines that have grown overnight, and little then I realized that was the kudzu vine,” he said.
Mays II explains that the kudzu vine is a highly invasive vine that grows in the south almost a foot a day, causing more issues for those who grow natural crops.
“I remember my grandfather always having to fight this vine, and when he, unfortunately, passed during the COVID-19 pandemic, I knew I wanted to honor his legacy by building an app that would solve the issue,” he added.
What began as an AP research project to detect another similar invasive vine in the area of Houston called the Japanese honeysuckle birthed the idea of IVY.
IVY, founded in 2021, is an app that provides guidance for users on harmful invasive vines that can hurt native plants and animals in their particular area.
The goal is to help users identify such invasive plants and remove them safely without damaging any of the other plants that are essential to the agricultural development of the land.
“Ultimately, by doing research on the statistics of how much damage these vines cause, not only to the North American economy, but even the global economy, it really showed me that there was a need to fight these vines,” Mays II said.
Some studies show that invasive plants are a leading cause of declines in native plant and animal numbers, and are even a factor in endangered species.
In terms of its economic impact, invasive plants cost California at least $82 million each year and contribute to roughly $120 billion in damage in the U.S. each year, that include other invasive species.
Mays II says that need helped expand the number of vines IVY detected, such as Chinese wisteria and even the kudzu vine.
He continued his research developing the app after realizing there was competition surrounding his project until he envisioned IVY becoming a product that people need.
After concluding his research development that was a part of his AP project, Mayes II has also teamed up with two of his friends who are proficient in coding to expand IVY to cover thousands of vines and into the sector of organizing plant delivery.
An idea one of his conservation teachers at Carnegie Vanguard High School supported to expand on his vision and serve a bigger market.
Mays II’s app was recognized by Apple CEO Tim Cook as one of Apple’s 2022 Swift Student Challenge winners.
He also participated in NASA’s Cs program and currently works at the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston as a “teen councilor.”
Mays II’s hope is that in everyone’s garden, people are just conscious of what they plant, even despite a plant that is invasive just appearing as “pretty.”
“I hope we give planters and gardeners the tools they need in order to detect invasive plants that are causing even social harm to our society. Whether that is damaging our infrastructure or hurting farmers,” Mays II explained. “Invasive plants are a huge thing that should be tackled.”
As for education after high school, Mays II plans to continue his studies in the technology sector space in California, with an interest in schools such as the University of Southern California or Stanford University.