ASLify wins Rep. Mo Brooks’ 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Alabama’s Fifth District

Rep. Mo Brooks has named Grace Hur, an 11th Grader at James Clemens High School, as the winner of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Alabama’s Fifth District.

When asked what inspired the creation of ASLify, the student said, ”I have always been interested in creating solutions to improve accessibility for the disabled community ever since I created a tactile children’s book with Braille translations and interactive audio elements, which won a 1st place award at the Technology Student Association state conference. After that, I began volunteering my time with Learning Ally, a nonprofit organization, by recording and editing audiobooks for children who are blind and/or have learning disabilities. So far, I have served more than 90 hours and counting, as I am still currently serving on the volunteer team.
Most recently, I was accepted into the BeaverWorks Designing for Assistive Technology summer institute hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where I had the opportunity to design and build a self-opening gate customized for a disabled user.”

“My inspiration for ASLify specifically came from my hobby of theater. I am currently helping to student-direct my school theater program’s fall play, and to make our show more accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing community, we decided to incorporate live shadow-signing onstage. This is where two actors are cast for each character of the play: one actor who speaks the lines and is the physical embodiment of the character, and another actor nearby who signs the lines in American Sign Language. 

“I initially started this project to create a tool for my actors to easily learn and rehearse their ASL lines independently. Since Google Documents is very commonly used for writing stories and scripts, I decided to customize ASLify to the platform. Realizing that this application could also benefit other theater groups as well, I expanded its functionality to be used on all other scripts, not just our own, by adding even more words to its dictionary.”

“The main goal I have set for ASLify to accomplish is to foster the growth of shadow signing as a storytelling medium. Currently, not many theatrical productions incorporate ASL or other accommodations, which makes it difficult for deaf and hard of hearing audiences to enjoy this form of entertainment. By making a free, easy-to-use ASL translation tool available, I hope to remove any barriers to shadow signing and encourage directors to invest in accessibility for all.”

The Congressional App Challenge smashed previous participation records in 2022. All told, 9,011 students registered for this year’s competition – creating 2,707 fully-functioning apps for 335 Members of Congress across 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the District of Columbia. This year’s competition set the record for most student registrations, most apps submitted, most apps per district submitted, and most districts receiving over 20 apps. The wildly successful competition continues to impress upon House Members the importance of computer science education and the need to develop a pipeline of diverse, domestic STEM talent.

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, Rise, theCoderSchool, Apple, and others.

The 2023 Congressional App Challenge will launch in June of 2023, and eligible students can pre-register for the competition now.