IndiGenius Games wins Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s 2021 Congressional App Challenge in Washington D.C.’s At-Large District

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton has named Roshan Natarajan from Georgetown Day High School as the winner of the 2021 Congressional App Challenge in Washington D.C.’s At-Large District.

When asked what inspired the creation of IndiGenius Games, the student said, “On Nov 16, 2017, the Navajo Times published an article on the results of Census data studies: ‘In 1980, 93 percent of Navajos spoke the language. Ten years later, in 1990 it had declined to 84 percent. Then in 2000 the percentage of Navajo speakers decreased to 76 percent. Another decade later, in 2010, the Navajo language showed its most stark decline to date, to 51 percent.’

Alarmed by these numbers, I sought help from Native American students in New Mexico, to create a website called IndiGenius Games to help preserve indigenous language and culture. IndiGenius Games integrates audio and text into math games to teach numerical fluency, and contains tutorials to code basic versions of the games. The website utilizes modern technology to preserve ancient oral traditions. It can be used in classrooms, libraries, math circles, and museums, and even connect elders with their children and grandchildren in a fun and engaging way. I am also targeting teachers, having presented at the NIEA national teachers conference in October 2021.

In the summer of 2020, I attended a Julia Robinson Math Festival (JRMF) internship. At this internship, I learned how to code in C# on the Unity platform. The following September, I was given an amazing opportunity to teach students in the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) at Navajo Preparatory School in New Mexico how to code in C# and Unity. I created a series of in depth tutorials, of which included the original guess the number game, for them to learn how to code. Since the theme for MESA was Designing for Equity, we came up with the idea to teach numerical fluency, while preserving their language and culture.

Over the summer, I ported the games and tutorials onto the Indigenous Games website to make it easier to present at events.  I have currently presented the website and games to non-profits, like MathHappens and JRMF, at conferences, like the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) national teachers conference, at the Bluebird Math Circle, and during a youth cultural exchange at Princeton High School to commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which has been featured in three local newspapers in Rocky Boy, MT, Farmington, NM, and Princeton, NJ.”

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.