Code Red: 911 for Periodic Emergencies

For those desperate times when you find yourself tamponless, padless, and entirely helpless (and wearing white jeans), Olenka M. Polak '15 has come up with a better solution than hiding behind a sweater tied tactfully around the waist. Her proposed iPhone app, dubbed Code Red and currently under development, aims to create a tampon exchange network to connect girls in need with the nearest free tampon or pad. Users will be rewarded with "tampon points" or "craving coupons" for every time they come to the aid of a Code Red request.

"The nature of this idea is funky," Polak said. "We know how big of a joke this is, and we want people to embrace that." The app itself adopts a light-hearted tone; for example, when a user sends out a Code Red request and needs to specify her location for potential tampon donors, Code Red asks, "Girl, where are you?"

Polak originally pitched the idea last Friday at a StartUp Scramble™ hosted by Young Impact, a startup company that encourages entrepreneurialism. Since then, she has brought together a team of programmers to work on a prototype and has contacted businesses about implementing a system to redeem "tampon points" for things like ice cream (or, of course, more tampons). Code Red has also partnered with Momba, a new series of vending machines being installed at Harvard which provide necessities such as red Solo cups, ping pong balls, and condoms. Polak predicts that the Code Red app could even be launched within the next two weeks.

The tampon industry has not, as of yet, branched out into the mobile world and taken advantage of the vast social networks created by modern technology. Ultimately, Polak hopes to create a heightened feeling of community and solidarity among women at Harvard and eventually in a larger sphere as well.

"I love finding something small and special, and showing people what there can be out of it," Polak said. "It's weird, it's uncomfortable, and it makes people giggle nervously. We are going to capitalize on that."

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