A blue circular badge in Prudential Emerging Visionaries dark blue. The Prudential Logo is across the top. The badge reads "Emerging Visionaries" in large block text. Below it reads "Societal Solution Winner"

Anuj Kakkad

AGE | 17

LOCATION | Plymouth, Minnesota

PROJECT | Vigilance Safety

Sectors: Tech & HumanityWellbeingYoung ChangemakingOther


Anuj Kakkad, 17, of Plymouth, Minnesota, is the co-founder of “Vigilance Safety,” a student-led nonprofit organization developing technical solutions to improve school safety and reduce casualties from school shootings. The initiative prompts an instantaneous response to a gun near a school entrance by utilizing proximity tags and technology, thereby promoting school safety, preventing firearms from entering school buildings and reducing casualties from school shootings.  

As a student who has experienced the fear surrounding school shootings and observed the adverse effects it can have on learning, Anuj is passionate about creating an environment in which students can thrive. “Vigilance Safety” has gained the support of local police and fire departments, school districts, and community organizations who have helped develop the system through regular feedback and iteration sessions. Anuj and his team are working to make their solution scalable so that each school district can adapt the technology to its own needs and create a safe learning environment for its students.

Before we were Vigilance Safety, we were a 7 person Destination Imagination (DI) team. In DI, teams can choose challenges where they come up with creative solutions to societal problems. In our sophomore year of high school, we decided to tackle the issue of school shootings. We developed a solution revolving around RFID technology which would prevent firearms from entering school buildings by initiating a lockdown protocol. We created a skit which showcased our solution and we won first place in the 2022 DI Global Finals. We were proud of our idea, but for us it was just that, an idea. But that same day, a school shooting occurred at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas which killed 21 people, 19 of which were students. After that shooting, we began to realize that our idea could make actual change. Buoyed by words of encouragement from our friends, family, and DI, we founded Vigilance Safety that following summer. We were driven to prevent another Uvalde because we had an idea that could save lives. For us, the choice was already made, we just had to bring our solution to reality.

As high school students, we are at the front lines of a school shooting epidemic. Year after year, we see more and more deaths from school shootings. In the past 4 years alone, there were 111 students and staff injured or killed from school shootings (data from the Dep. Of Homeland Security). Students like us are personally affected by not only the shootings themselves, but also the fear they spread. This fear turns schools, which should be a safe learning environment, into somewhere that students struggle to feel safe in. We want to create an environment where students can thrive.

We have developed a system to make schools safer by allowing for an instantaneous response to a gun near a school entrance. The average police response time to a school shooting is 18 minutes while the average school shooting is 12.5 minutes long. Every minute counts. Our solution helps decrease police response time by alerting first responders before a shooting even starts. Our solution can not only make our own school and community safer, but also schools across the US safer.

Most shootings stem from improper gun use, with 74% of school shooters getting their guns from their own home or that of relatives or friends (Everytown Research and Policy). Our solution allows gun owners to be more responsible with their guns and ensure that they can be prevented from entering a school.

We, at Vigilance Safety, are developing a proactive solution to prevent the illegal entry of firearms into schools. Our solution relies on the communication between permanently adhered proximity tags on guns and RFID scanners positioned at school entrances. When a gun enters the proximity of a school entrance (~50 meters), the front desk and school is alerted. They can initiate lockdown protocols and contact first responders. This approach allows schools to detect potential threats before a shooting occurs and ensures quicker activation of their specific emergency response systems. It can also be adapted to various locations nationwide.

Gun owners can voluntarily add tags to their guns. 74% of school shooters get their guns from their own home or that of relatives or friends. By adding a tag to their gun, gun owners, especially parent gun owners, can ensure that their gun is never misused and brought to a school. Our tags do not track, store personal information, or affect the functionality of the gun ensuring that gun owner rights are protected.These tags are attached to guns using an adhesive which chemically bonds the tag and gun, making them very difficult to remove. Our solution is efficient and non intrusive which allows it to stand apart from others such as metal detectors and gun control.

Our team consists of 7 high school students (cofounders) who manage day to day operations and our board of directors which contains professionals with experience in startups, RFID technology, and nonprofit fundraising. Having a committed team with great mentors allows us to develop an effective solution. We also regularly work with our local police and fire department, school, and gun owner organization leaders. These stakeholders have helped shape our solution through regular feedback and we have garnered the support of many of them.

We have developed a roll out plan which makes our solution scalable. Our solution will be rolled out on a school district by district basis. Vigilance Safety (VS) will install scanners on school entrances and work with the school to host information events and set up tag distribution centers in the district to allow gun owners to get tags on their guns. Because our solution can be rolled out on a district by district basis, we can start with at-risk urban areas and quickly spread our solution from there.

We have an outlined and detailed business and financial model for our solution. It can be used to bring in investors and increase interest in our project. We also have a minimum viable product which we use in demonstrations as we share our solution.

Over the past year we have worked to engage other students to join our cause. We have engaged student volunteers through our school district volunteering club and engaged high school student interns. We have set up a Vigilance Safety Chapter in our high school which we can work to spread to other schools in the future. These opportunities allow students to help fundraise, contribute, and develop our solution. We are giving these students the ability to help secure their own learning environments.

Our solution is apolitical and appealing to almost all political viewpoints. This has inspired others to spread the word about our solution,donate to our cause, and offer pro bono support. We are currently receiving pro bono support from Fredrickson and Byron (a law firm), an RFID specialist, and a gunsmith.