The annual Congressional App Challenge (CAC) launches this week. The CAC is a Congressional initiative to encourage student engagement in STEM and, more specifically, computer science. Middle and high school students from across America are invited to participate.
The “App” in “Congressional App Challenge” is short for “application.” An application is any computer software program written in any programming language, which can run on a variety of platforms such as:
- a personal computer (example: Microsoft Word)
- a web app (example: Dropbox, Fortnite, MailChimp, an extension for your browser)
- a mobile phone (example: Candy Crush, Lyft/Uber, WhatsApp)
- a robot (example: computer program which makes a robot follow a delimited perimeter)
- a tablet
- a vehicle with automated features, etc.
Already, over 120 Members of Congress opened a Challenge for their district’s students (we expect dozens more to launch their Challenges in the coming weeks). “The Congressional App Challenge is the largest series of student coding competitions in the world,” said Tim Lordan, Executive Director of the Internet Education Foundation, which was appointed as the CAC’s official sponsor by the U.S. House Of Representatives.
The CAC was created because Congress recognizes how essential computer science and STEM skills are for economic growth and innovation, and that the U.S. is currently experiencing a dearth of adequately trained technical talent. By some estimates, there are nearly a quarter of a million unfilled programming jobs in the US. The CAC is a congressional effort to maintain American competitiveness, by proactively inspiring our youth and encouraging them to pursue these crucial skills. “People forget that Microsoft founder Bill Gates started coding as a teenager, long before he started college,” notes Rachel Decoste, Congressional App Challenge Director. “His first app was a tic-tac-toe game.”
The Congressional App Challenge winners get recognition from their Member of Congress, and their app is displayed on Capitol Hill.
The CAC aims to bridge the gender, geographic, and racial gaps in tech by building the domestic pipeline of future tech innovators. In its first three years, the program inspired over 8,800 students across 43 states and territories to code over 2,400 apps for desktop PCs, web, tablets, mobiles or other platforms. Participant demographics for the 605 App Challenges surpassed all tech industry diversity metrics. This year, the Congressional App Challenge strives to build upon this success.