ZipBag wins Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s 2021 Congressional App Challenge in Oregon’s Third District

Rep. Earl Blumenauer has named Ben Rosenfeld and Lucas Holliday from Catlin Gabel School as the winners of the 2021 Congressional App Challenge in Oregon’s Third District.



When asked what inspired the creation of ZipBag, the students said, “Our inspiration to create this app was to make it more practical for people with limited fine motor skills to gain employment in industrial settings. Consumers shopping at stores, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s Home Improvement, never consider who filled the little plastic bags containing parts. This task represents employment opportunities for people with cognitive/motor disabilities. Many of us take our fine motor skills for granted, but the precision required in everyday tasks such as opening and closing plastic reusable bags can be difficult for individuals with limb difference or lowered dexterity. Reusable bags are opened by squeezing fingers together and moving them in opposite directions and closed by squeezing the seal between two fingers. We were inspired to use our programming skills to find a way of replicating these movements mechanically to create an employment opportunity for people with disabilities.

 Since some manufacturing jobs entail filling and sealing plastic bags containing small parts, our goal was to design a device to remove a barrier to employment for people with disabilities. As part of our iterative design process, we contacted Matthew Grager, the Executive Director of On-the-Move, a community based program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. After our demo, Grager commented that “you could teach participants more easily to use [Zipbag] than you could an actual Ziploc bag if they were having tactical issues.” Keith Jocsing, an On-the-Move participant also tested ZipBag, successfully opening and closing a bag containing M&Ms. Our hope is that ZipBag is one small step in creating a more inclusive workplace.”

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.