; Google Play Store Android App: Bathroom Access wins Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Massachusetts’s Seventh District

Rep. Ayanna Pressley has named Amith Saligrama, an 11th Grader at Commonwealth School, as the winner of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Massachusetts’s Seventh District.

When asked what inspired the creation of; Google Play Store Android App: Bathroom Access, the student said, ”Like many homebound people during the pandemic, my grandparents turned to neighborhood walks for fresh air and exercise. But they found they couldn’t walk far from home, because they knew they wouldn’t have access to a bathroom. The reality for many people, particularly older individuals, is that they simply need to use the bathroom more frequently. This was challenging enough before COVID-19, but since 2020, private businesses have become even more reluctant or unable-to allow non-customers into their facilities. And even when they do, they often restrict it to paying customers.

As I dug into this issue, I found the U.S. has eight public toilets per 100,000 people, trailing Iceland’s world-leading 56 public toilets per 100,000. As recently as mid-2022, the UN has said the lack of public bathrooms is “an ongoing sanitation crisis, and it highlights American inequality and marginalization.” I wanted to see how this inequality and marginalization affects my local community. I posted an online survey and received more than 200+ responses including painful stories of racial minorities being denied access even when they were paying customers, or horror stories of taxi drivers using bottles to relieve themselves on the go.

Not only do we not have an adequate number of public restrooms, locating existing public restrooms is not easy – for instance, most municipal websites in the Greater Boston area include parks, bike trails and even water-filling stations, but not restrooms. Even when some city websites provide restroom information, it is hard to find. There is no standard information such as wheelchair accessibility or hours of operation. In addition, people in the greater Boston area live in one municipality but commute to work or have family in other municipalities. There is no single resource that can help these residents find restrooms in larger metro areas.”

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.