Paws 4 A Cause wins Rep. Lauren Underwood’s 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Illinois’s 14th District

Rep. Lauren Underwood has named Olivia Schwab of Oswego East High School, Jensen Coonradt of Oswego East High School, and Anshul Puri of Oswego East High School as the winners of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Illinois’s 14th District.



When asked what inspired the creation of Paws 4 A Cause, the students said, ”As avid volunteers at our local animal shelter, we began to see firsthand the struggles staff go through trying to manage everything and everyone. Part of our job as volunteers is to organize supplies and try our best to alert staff when certain items are out of stock – which is oftentimes much too late. The animals already go through enough hardships of having to live alone in a kennel without a true place to call home; the last thing they need is to go without the necessary resources to maintain both a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle. After noticing this issue ourselves, we asked one of our lead staff members if they felt it was a legitimate problem. The look on her face itself gave us everything we needed to know; seeing her face drop, the exasperated sigh escaped her mouth, and a faint radiance of embarrassment immediately struck a chord in our heart. The people who are running this organization are doing this purely out of the kindness of their hearts, with no monetary gain or even much recognition. They should not be subject to the pressure of feeling responsible for managing every item, every animal, and every person with zero assistance or structure. We knew we needed to come up with a solution to improve both the lives of volunteers and animals in order to keep this amazing shelter alive. We wanted this resolution to help multiple animal shelters across the country stay in business, and even inspire other shelters to open up with this assistance. There are thousands of homeless animals who need love and care, so with this app we could create a resource to assist those interested in creating their own shelter. It can be extremely overwhelming to manage supplies, people, and animals, so this invention would help eliminate some of the pressure. Additionally, we realized that there was no easy way for people who may not want to volunteer at a shelter to still help. People who are interested in donating don’t understand what exactly their money will go towards, so there isn’t much of an incentive. We wanted to create a way for the shelter and the public to come together to make a difference.”



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.