STOCyberReady wins Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon’s 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Puerto Rico’s At-Large District
Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon has named Meghna Pramoda of Baldwin School of Puerto Rico and Siona Pramoda of Baldwin School of Puerto Rico as the winners of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Puerto Rico’s At-Large District.
When asked what inspired the creation of STOCyberReady, the students said, ”Covid brought me (and my friends) boredom, isolation and somewhat misguided curiosity. We decided we’d change our birth years to gain access to the hallowed digital wonderland called Instagram. For weeks, we furtively marveled at glamorous insta-lives. How could we make more people like our posts? Over time, we realized that there was a whole behind-the-scenes crew. They were pulling our strings by timing our dopamine releases. These companies spent big money to learn about us – privacy is a hot commodity and someone could use this to manipulate us like lifeless widgets. This was easy to dismiss until one of our classmates wandered into a dark digital hole, became progressively disconnected until one day, he committed suicide. While we will never know exactly what led him there, we learn and protect our information against misuse. And this realization guided us to the work at SafeTeensOnline, to share what we’d learned, to invite discussion on these important topics, improve our collective awareness, and build a digitally safe future for us.
In 2020, FBI noted that eight children per day face online exploitation. Within the US, DQ Institute confirmed that ~12M children are exposed to cyber risks, ~9M are affected by cyberbullying, and 6M experienced cyber threats in the US only. Within our own island (Puerto Rico), during March 2020, the number of referrals we got from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children increased 48 percent. In response, U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Child Exploitation Investigative Unit educates children and teens on the dangers of cyberbullying and sexual predators and offers them tips on how they can stay safe online. We are now aware that while the digital world opens up opportunities (and continued online school during Covid), it also opens the door to numerous risks. We want youth in the world to thrive online, safely – physically, emotionally, financially and digitally safely in Puerto Rico, the US and for the world. We built our predictive model and app to make cyber safety awareness accessible to our peers. As they learn about the impact of their digital choices on their cyber risk and get educated on cyber safety, we hope they make better choices to reduce their risk. Over time, as they continue along their learning journeys, they may consider careers in cybersecurity accessible. ”
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.