Project H.O.P.E. – Helping the Oceans, Preserving the Environment wins Rep. Chris Jacobs’s 2022 Congressional App Challenge in New York’s 27th District

Rep. Chris Jacobs has named Henrietta Rasmusson, a Ninth Grader at Buffalo Seminary, as the winner of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge in New York’s 27th District.

When asked what inspired the creation of Project H.O.P.E. – Helping the Oceans, Preserving the Environment, the student said, ”The story in my video demonstration is based on my real life experiences: I recently went to the shore, and I was surprised to see so many plastic bottles lying on the beach. I wondered why people did not just pick up their waste and keep the beach clean. There were several easily accessible garbage cans, which were pretty close nearby, so the problem was not that people could not pick up the trash. It was their choice just to leave the beach dirty. I picked up some bottles to help clean up, but I realized if everyone just picked up a few bottles, the beach would soon be clean. We need to associate picking up litter with a positive, fun, experience. I wondered if a computer game which modeled positive behavior might encourage people to adopt that behavior in the real world. If people associate picking up bottles on the beach with the excitement and energy of a competitive computer game, would they turn picking up bottles on the beach into a real life game?

I did not want to create a game that was clearly an “educational” game, and I did not want the game to be a text based game which was full of statistics about ocean pollution, and just shouted at everyone to pick up trash. I wanted to create a fun way to get people to repeatedly pick up trash so that it would become a habit. I shared it with my family, but they are already good about picking up all their trash at the beach, so I could not tell if it had any effect on them. Next, I would like to share it with people who litter, to see if it has any effect on their behavior. Picking up plastic from the beach is a small action which can have significant consequences. If everyone just picked up a bottle or two this would have a major impact on the beach and ocean environment.”

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.