For some, a rose is a symbol of beauty or love. For Shaza Mehdi, it is a connection to her mother, but also a gateway to innovation.
Mehdi’s mother, Afshin, grows rose bushes at their Lawrenceville home. But a few years ago, the plants kept getting diseases, ruining the blooms.
Mehdi tried diagnosing the flowers by Googling images of plant diseases and comparing those images with the sick roses.
“I became pretty good at figuring it out,” she said. And that sparked an idea. “I thought we could probably train a computer to do the same thing.”
That’s how Mehdi came up with PlantMD, a smartphone app that can diagnose a plant disease with the snap of a photo.
After three months of researching, coding and getting some help from her high school teachers, Mehdi launched the app.
“PlantMD works when you take a picture of a plant,” she said. “It tells you what plant it is and whether it is healthy or diseased, and if it is diseased, what disease it has.”
Her foray into app invention sparked an interest in the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence and Mehdi is now inspired to go beyond just recognizing plant diseases, something she plans to do as a computer science major in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.