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Friday, April 3, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Post Falls inventor returns to ‘Ellen,’ meets his hero, Tim Cook

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 19, 2017

Post Falls 12-year-old Alex Knoll made his second appearance on “Ellen” Tuesday, and recently had the opportunity to meet his hero, Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Alex, who has invented an app to help people with disabilities better navigate public spaces, appeared on Ellen DeGeneres’ show in May and she awarded him $25,000 from Shutterfly to help develop his app. He’s back on DeGeneres’ couch today for an update on the Ability App.

“I’ve been working hard all summer on my app with your team. It’s really what’s going to make this app a reality. Thank you. It’s been a dream working with your team,” he said to DeGeneres.

DeGeneres and her team arranged to have Knoll attend the latest product launch at the new Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California, where he got to check out the new iPhone and Apple Watch. The seventh-grader, dressed in a jacket and tie, also met film director J.J. Abrams, and even handed the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” director his business card.

But it was the one-on-one with Cook that gave Alex goosebumps.

“I know a lot of people want to work for you,” Alex said, before handing Cook his résumé. He soon added, “I’d love to work for you one day.”

Alex then said, “This is incredible,” as he burst into tears. “It was incredibly neat.” Cook put his arms around the boy, then turned to the camera and said, “Ellen, you found a great one here.”

Afterward, Alex described Cook as an inspiration. “Meeting him in person was absolutely amazing and surreal,” he said.

DeGeneres then presented Alex with a framed photograph of his meeting with Cook. Apple also had a gift for him: a ticket to next year’s worldwide Apple developers conference, which DeGeneres likened to “Coachella for tech people.”

The Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy student has been working on his Ability App for several years. In 2015 his invention took Best in Show at the Invent Idaho competition and he won the international Inventor’s Challenge competition in 2016. The app is designed to let people know information about locations of wheelchair ramps, accessible boat launches and hiking trails, service animal-friendly locations, and restaurants with Braille menus. It also will offer information on transportation and mobility, and disability-friendly job listings, among other services.

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