PyroTamer wins Rep. Jackie Speier’s 2021 Congressional App Challenge in California’s 14th District

Rep. Jackie Speier has named Jermaine Lei from San Mateo High School as the winner of the 2021 Congressional App Challenge in California’s 14th District.


When asked what inspired the creation of PyroTamer, the student said, “As a native Californian, I was a firsthand witness to the aggravating havoc of wildfires repeatedly destroying homes and natural forest reserves. With everyone being impacted under the smoky and orange skies caused by dozens of intense wildfires all over the state last year, I realized that forest fires were no longer a one-time, isolated event but rather a constant threat, jeopardizing everyone’s daily life. I’ve always wondered how the Internet of Things would benefit our first respondents who risk everything to protect our community from the wildfires at the deadliest frontline. As wildfires become more prevalent on the news and millions of acres have been burned, wildfires cost our community billions of dollars. I continued to brainstorm what I could personally contribute to preserving the environmental sustainability from wildfires and how technology could practically shorten the time to contain the fire, minimizing the destruction towards natural treasures, economic loss, and death toll. During COVID-19, a firefighter by the name of Mr. Tim requested his friend, Mr. V, a mentor at a non-profit organization called Applied Computing Foundation, to create and develop an application that would help firefighters track and manage resources to battle the blaze more efficiently. Mr. V and I connected to discuss this initiative, and I was intrigued and excited to partake in this project for a good cause. After my discussion with Mr. Tim, I did more research about firefighting stories. Massive fires like the Dixie fire took months to subdue as the firefighters took many hours to communicate within the team to identify resource locations. After analyzing the fire situation, the fuel break lines around the fire are mainly created using bulldozers or ground crews. As of today, advanced technology unleashes so much potential. While fires are becoming more rampant, a seemingly ‘must-have’ app in tracking resources and plotting lines has not been created yet despite the urgent need. I have always wanted to utilize my coding knowledge to help solve complex real-world problems with environmental consciousness in mind. This project provides me with an excellent opportunity to start immersing myself in both front and back-end programming from scratch to create an indispensable resource tracking app for the firefighters tackling an ongoing imminent threat. In essence, after months of effort to build this app, I am very honored to support the community’s amazing firefighters with my applied computing skills.”

The 2021 Congressional App Challenge yielded 2,101 fully functioning apps. After eighteen months of disruptions to educational cadences for students everywhere, the Congressional App Challenge came roaring back with 7,174 students registering for this year’s competition. All told, 340 Members of Congress hosted Congressional App Challenges in their districts across 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C.

The Congressional App Challenge is an official initiative of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Members of Congress host contests in their districts for middle school and high school students, encouraging them to learn to code and inspiring them to pursue careers in computer science. Each participating Member of Congress selects a winning app from their district, and each winning team is invited to showcase their winning app to Congress during our annual #HouseOfCode festival. The program is a public-private partnership made possible through funding from Omidyar Network, AWS, theCoderSchool, Facebook, Replit, Accenture, and others.

The 2022 Congressional App Challenge will launch in June of 2022, and eligible students can pre-register for the competition now.