Rep. Neal Dunn has named Heewon Seo of Lawton Chiles High School, Nima Mollaei of Lawton Chiles High School, James Zhang of Lawton Chiles High School, and Arib Syed of Lawton Chiles High School as the winners of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Florida’s Second District.
When asked what inspired the creation of Vocab Master, the students said, ”We were inspired to create this app by the presence of immigrant individuals and mentally challenged individuals in our school. Many immigrants in our school came from Latin American countries, where English was not their first language. Thus, these students tended to understand what the objects represented but struggled to link it to the English word over that of their native tongues. There were students in our Spanish classes that struggled to speak basic English but excelled in speaking and writing Spanish. This showed to us that they understood the concept behind using language but struggled with shifting towards English over their native language.
We ourselves have experienced similar experiences within our group. When James and Heewon came to the United States, they both struggled to speak English when they first arrived. This is because the languages they had grown up using were Chinese and Korean, respectively. Although they understood what objects were, they struggled with relating it to the English word over Chinese or Korean. Seeing a similar issue within our school, we decided that we would create an app to help people to understand English better and be able to link commonly found words to the objects and ideas that they represented.
Furthermore, our app would have a similar effect within individuals that are mentally impaired. Oftentimes, students that have mental impairments or cognitive developmental delays do not have access to a curriculum that is crucial to their academic success. As such, this gap in content and education needs to be provided through auxiliary resources. We designed our app in hope for it to serve as a means to educate these mentally impaired students and enhance their progression, while also serving as a challenging and fun game. We aimed for our app to be able to address two major issues within our community and school and improve student’s understanding of English, particularly for aspiring-English speakers and young children with mental impairments. These issues and their commonalities inspired us to create an app that helped to educate its desired audience but was also fun to use. We decided to use a matching game since it appeals to young children and can prove to be a competitive and immersing game, while still educating the player and improving their English skills.”
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.