Finding Triumph in Tragedy: Navigating School Shootings

May 30, 2023

Audrey W. (she/her) is a Taiwanese-American coder, changemaker, and community volunteer from the Bay Area, California. She strives to use her grit and superpowers in technology to advocate for social change, particularly mental health and inclusion. Recently, she coded a platform named Affective Cookies, which inspires the user to reduce cyberbullying through inclusivity and empathy. Audrey leads her peers in building friendships with students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), as she strongly believes in the vibrance and perspectives neurodivergent individuals bring to the world. She has been recognized as the youngest 2022 Bay Area Inno Under 25 recipient and is an Apple WWDC22 scholar. She also loves writing Chinese calligraphy, performing diabolo (Chinese yoyo), and exploring nature!

This story took place in United States

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*Content Warning: The following story contains details and descriptions of a school lockdown and a school shooting. If you or someone you know has been impacted by gun violence, please visit BTWF’s Get Help Page for a list of mental health resources or text HOME to Crisis Text Line at 741741.


The loud sound ricocheted up and down the hallways, piercing the liveliness of our classroom. Everyone frozen in their tracks, frozen in horror. In one fell swoop, the teacher flicked off the light, closed the blinds, and started barricading the door with chairs and textbooks. All of us students scrambled and crept toward the far corner of the classroom. We were shoulder to shoulder like in a crowded elevator, waiting for the green light of relief.


It was silent, except for the apprehensive drumbeats vibrating against my knees. The boom sucked all the smiles out of the room. The silence was deafening, and the anticipation of the next gunshot felt too much to bear. All of the footsteps and loud whispers outside became a blur and everything went black…

As an American student, the fear of gun violence has never become more prevalent. I, along with many of my peers, am tired of taking ten days every school year out of our learning to practice lockdown drills. As I am penning this story, school shootings have killed or injured 88 lives in 2023 alone.

It can often feel helpless as many media outlets tend to sensationalize these incidents, with breaking news and graphic images. It seems as if these events occur every day and have become the new “norm.” This does not even begin to cover the detrimental mental health consequences for those who are affected first-hand.

My friends, Rebecca, Caitlin, Swarnya, and I decided to channel our fears into innovation. We wanted to be a piece of the puzzle of the solution. After much deliberation and fine-tuning, we created SIREN, a gunshot detection system that aims to reduce response times in a school shooting.

First, our sensor is designed to detect and locate the sound of gunfire within seconds. Second, if a gunshot is detected, SIREN will provide real-time automated phone calls to law enforcement as well as SMS text messages to students and faculty. The end goal is to shorten response times for both law enforcement and the school community. Law enforcement will accurately know of the situation in seconds while those in the school can escape to safety in the right direction without calling the authorities, which costs time and compromises their safety. 

In mid-April, team SIREN had the awesome opportunity to showcase our project at NASA! We emphasize our Triple A core values: accessibility, affordability, and accuracy. We believe SIREN can bring hope to the dark situation of gun violence response times.

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