Ivy Plant Identifier wins Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Texas’s 18th Dist

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has named Jones May, a 12th Grader at Carnegie Vanguard High School, as the winner of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Texas’s 18th District.

When asked what inspired the creation of Ivy Plant Identifier, the student said, “Squirt, come help me outside,” shouted my grandpa with his authoritative but loving superintendent voice.
“Yes, grandpa,” I joyfully replied as I got ready. Like most summer mornings, I was helping him tend to his community garden.

Unlike most gardeners, he didn’t start the day by feeding the animals or watering the plants but by inspecting the soil for anything unusual that appeared overnight. “Grandpa, why do these weeds keep coming back?” I remember asking him.

“Well, because these damn vines are invasive and hard as grease on a skillet to get rid of,” he explained.

“Invasive, what does that mean? “I questioned, not knowing that his response would stick with me to this day.
When my family had to, unfortunately, lay him to rest during the pandemic, I knew that I wanted to pay tribute to his legacy by combating the thing he hated the most: invasive plants. So like a sergeant preparing for war, I created IVY in order to fight my leafy enemies. But to my surprise, the work had only just begun. To combat the strength of my foe, I had to recruit an army by any means necessary. This challenge pushed me to learn how to advertise, network, and run a company. Before I knew it, I had over 1000 users who were ready to go to war, with my grandfather leading the way.

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.