Saplings wins Rep. Steve Scalise’s 2021 Congressional App Challenge in Louisiana’s First District

Rep. Steve Scalise has named Vaishnavi Kumbala from Haynes Academy as the winner of the 2021 Congressional App Challenge in Louisiana’s First District.


When asked what inspired the creation of Saplings, the student said, “Unfortunately, mental health-related issues are rapidly increasing in America among teenagers, especially because of social isolation and pandemic-induced virtual learning. When I was looking to manage my stress last year, I could only find long books, research studies, and exercises that did not appeal to me. My friends also complained that school counseling resources were limited as they attempted to connect through a Zoom call with garbled audio. Furthermore, I was interested in learning to meditate, but the tutorials I found were intimidating, and none of them broke the mindfulness process down into small, less overwhelming steps. Later, I realized that meditation, listening to certain music, and journaling were all extremely helpful in staying calm and boosting my mental health. Additionally, it was difficult to find interactive, engaging ways to de-stress, and the combination of these factors inspired me to create this app. Everyone prefers a different way to manage their stress, so Saplings is designed to help users, no matter what their interests may be. There are interactive features that users can utilize based on their preferences. Since everyone doesn’t desire the generic ‘How Was Your Day Survey,’ I added a multitude of colorful features that allow users to be actively engaged as they weather the rough patches in their lives. While this app is targeted towards teenagers, the features are flexible so that anyone can benefit, since everyone, regardless of age, feels stressed out at some point. I am constantly looking to add new activities, so that the de-stressing activities can help a wider array of individuals.”

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.