Each year members of the United States House of Representatives host Congressional App Challenges (CAC) within their districts, inspiring middle school and high school students to pursue careers in computer science. These students are challenged to submit original apps for a chance to win the Congressional App Challenge; the reward? Nationwide recognition of the winning teams and the opportunity to have each app displayed in the US Capitol Building.
Despite the fame that comes along with winning the Congressional App Challenge, this initiative has left a resounding impact on underrepresented American youth. According to a recent report, App Challenge participants were four times as likely to identify as Black compared to the diversity metrics of Silicon Valley’s App Development Competition, another well-known event designed to encourage students to pursue careers in computer science. Moreover, App Challenge participants were five times as likely to identify as Latinx and two times as likely to identify as female. The CAC has achieved what no other initiative has been able to do: it has garnered record-setting levels of participation from urban, suburban, rural, and underserved communities nationwide.
In 2021, Noah Combs was named the winner of the Congressional App Challenge in Guam’s District. When asked what inspired him to design his winning app, The Covid Vaxx App, Combs claimed that “[he] wanted to create something that would encourage individuals to get vaccines that will protect us from COVID-19.” Furthermore, Northern Mariana Islands Delegate Gregorio Sablan named Jaehoon Son, Carson Lin, James Lin, and Dip Roy winners in their district in the same year. According to an interview with the high school students, “when asked what inspired the creation of A’ayuda, the students said, ‘We remember as middle school students, making a sentence in a Chamorro (indigenous language in the NMI) to be really difficult, because the only resources that non-speakers got were a couple of dictionaries that we could only use in the classroom and sometimes, we had to look up some words online, and most of them were inaccurate or misleading. Now that we have matured, we think this will be a big problem for the students because classes and local libraries are already experiencing shortages of these dictionaries, there are very few teachers in the school system teaching the language, and sometimes students are fed with misinformation online. Instead, we could use a dedicated space, driven by the community, to help the next cycle of students to learn about the language.’”
This year, the Congressional App Challenge continues to inspire students nationwide to code. So far, Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (NPP, R) and Northern Mariana Islands Delegate Gregorio Sablan (D) have announced that their respective districts will be participating in the App Challenge in 2022, which launched on June 15
In just six short years, his groundbreaking initiative has brought STEM education to every corner of America.