Lookupp wins Rep. David Rouzer’s 2022 Congressional App Challenge in North Carolina’s Seventh District

Rep. David Rouzer has named Samin Bhan of John T. Hoggard High School and Atiksh Bhan of Wilmington Academy of Arts and Sciences as the winners of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge in North Carolina’s Seventh District.

When asked what inspired the creation of Lookupp, the students said, ”Every Sunday when I was in middle school, my neighborhood buddies and I would beg our parents for money, run out the door, fasten our helmets, and cycle to the nearby Keg n’ Egg restaurant for breakfast. The server would seat us at our normal spots, and we were completely absorbed in each other’s company.

However, after we started high school, I observed a new trend at breakfast. We simply couldn’t put our phones down. We were right in front of each other, only a few feet apart, but not truly present. Our weekly conversations, which were previously filled with joy, laughter, and stories, have been replaced by quiet, isolation, and mindless phone scrolling. I no longer looked forward to breakfast as the months went by, and I felt increasingly alienated and lonely throughout the week.

I wasn’t the only one who felt like I was losing people because of screens. My younger brother went through something similar. My teachers, like myself, had lost students, I noticed. It didn’t stop there; I’d go to any of my friends’ houses and ask their parents how they felt about it, and they were just as frustrated as I was.

Both my brother and I spent nearly a year investigating dozens of apps and determining what to do to improve outcomes. Finally, I feel that limiting screen time is counterproductive in encouraging more screen-free people time. So, with the help of behavioral economics, the science of decision-making, I decided to create an app.

As I built this app, my community encouraged me. Lookupp was named the winner of a regional social innovation competition for high school students. Dr. Elham Ibrahimi, a UNC Wilmington professor, and Dr. Larry Hodges, computer science chair of the North Carolina School of Science and Math (as well as the co-founder of two startup companies), have also agreed to work with me on this project.

I was recently acknowledged as a changemaker when Taco Bell/Ashoka Ambition Accelerator chose Lookupp as one of the top 25 social venture projects out of 300 projects submitted nationwide. The monetary assistance I got from Taco has pushed me to move even faster. To put it simply, I truly believe that the current generation is being slowly destroyed by excessive screen time; it is analogous to digital cocaine. And, for me, contributing to this problem is an inspiration in and of itself.”

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.