Central Alert wins Rep. Sydney Kamlager Congressional App Challenge in California’s 37th District

Rep. Kamlager has named Nashla Turcios, a 12 grader at New West Charter as the winner of the 2024 Congressional App Challenge in California’s 37th District.

When asked what inspired the creation of Central Alert, the student said, “The data we collect mirrors the world’s priorities. Conversely, missing data can be wielded as a means of suppression. Marcus Garvey once wrote that “a people without knowledge of their past history is like a tree without roots.” Likewise, a community devoid of data to substantiate its resistance is headed toward futile activism. By combining quantitative insights with qualitative understanding, data can serve as a tool capable of narrating the haunting and poignant stories society tends to overlook.  Growing up, there was no quantitative data to account for the human rights abuses I witnessed. There was no method to quantify the pervasive influence of extortion rates, gang violence, and political repression in my surroundings.  Creating this app was an initial step towards addressing this informational gap. I believe the field of computer science can enable the reimagining of a Central American future. During my upbringing in Honduras, a frequently heard phrase was “el que nada sabe, nada teme” (he who knows nothing, fears nothing). However, this mindset hindered civilians from reporting any human rights abuses they encountered.  Moreover, in a region plagued by government corruption, individuals refrained from reporting crimes or extortion rates out of fear that police forces were also corrupt. The existence of apps like Central Alert offers residents in Central American regions a chance to utilize a third-party platform for reporting witnessed incidents. This information can then be relayed to international organizations addressing violence or human rights violations. Having apps like Central Alert can provide civilians in Central American regions the opportunity to go to a third-party platform and report anything they witness, and this information can be taken to international organizations that combat violence or the violation of human rights. It is through the combination of code and purpose that I strive to contribute to a brighter future, where the untold stories of those affected by historical circumstances are amplified.”

This year’s Challenge saw an unprecedented level of participation, with 374 Members of the House of Representatives hosting competitions, surpassing the previous record of 340. A remarkable 11,334 students from across the United States competed in this year’s Challenge, marking an impressive increase of nearly 1,000 participants compared to the previous record set in 2019. The enthusiasm and creativity these students display is a testament to the growing interest in technology and signal a bright future for American innovation. The surge of ingenuity continued with a whopping 3,645 original applications flooding in, nearly a thousand more than the previous year’s high. This remarkable growth showcases the exceptional talent and innovation within our nation’s youth.

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. This resounding show of bipartisan support emphasizes the critical importance of STEM education in today’s rapidly evolving world. 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 2024 Congressional App Challenge will launch in May of 2024, and eligible students can pre-register for the competition now.