"Fit friends" don't let friends miss a workout.
They're the kind of pals that motivate you to reach for the fruits and veggies and hit the gym.
And they're the invention of a group of Bartlett High School freshmen.
These six students have designed a smartphone app that lets users track their diet and exercise routines. And the app's "fit friends" give the virtual pat on your back when you meet a healthy goal.
That design -- combining stats with social networking -- won a national competition and a $20,000 prize from Verizon for the school. Only seven other schools were named national winners.
The Bartlett team also snagged another perk: A mentor who arrived at the school this week will help students turn the concept into a live app.
"It tends to open students' eyes that there are opportunities outside of the walls of the school," said Phil Church, their Bartlett teacher.
"You can apply what you're learning to something that is actually real-world beneficial."
On Friday, Krishnendu Roy introduced the MIT App Inventor, a program for developing mobile applications. Each week, Roy, a math and computer science professor at Valdosta State University in Georgia, will continue to provide feedback for students via online video chats.
Roy expects the app -- dubbed Fittastick -- to take off.
"We are all very social beings," Roy said. "So whenever we have more social support to do something, it will of course make us motivated to be more cautious about what we're eating and how much exercise we're getting."
The app will calculate and record calories and award points for different types of exercises. On a Facebook-like news feed, users also can keep tabs on their fit friends' success.
"It would encourage competition," freshman Ivana Bozic, 14, said.
The Bartlett teen and five of her peers in the school's Science, Engineering and Technology Academy conceived the idea in December. Most have little or no coding experience.
"It's like a different language," Purav Shah, 15, said.
That hasn't dampened their enthusiasm.
"They acknowledge that they have a good idea and it resonates with people," said Tom Clay, a consultant hired by MIT to monitor the contest's winning teams. "And they know how lucky they are."
In June, the app is expected to be available for a free download through Google Play for Android -- so nobody will make any money off it.
Students also will show off their project at the Technology Student Association's annual conference in Washington, D.C.
The weeklong meeting starting June 27 will put students face to face with tech gurus who could open doors to internships.
Only on the second day of programming, the team seemed at ease under the deadline pressure, said Church, who teaches STEM academy courses.
"I'm really impressed with how quickly the students have grasped it," he said.