The Congressional App Challenge has always brought out the best in students across America, making it no surprise that during this year’s contest, students overwhelmingly chose to solve pandemic-related problems. In a time when many felt hopeless, our students displayed unparalleled compassion, creativity, and a call to public service amid crisis.
In spite of the pandemic, student developers took the Congressional App Challenge as a call to public service. They were determined to find ways to serve their community and alleviate some of the pain that COVID has inflicted. Fifty-two percent of students created apps that addressed COVID-19 either directly or indirectly. These topics ranged from enhancing online learning, creating a safer shopping experience, or educating the public about ways to stay safe during the pandemic.
Inspiring examples of innovation can be found throughout this year’s entries. Jeremy Haber of Connecticut’s 4th District created “Nature Hero,” an app that allows for “anyone to find public trails and outdoor spaces, so they can safely spend time outside during COVID.” While Dylan Iskandar of California’s 33rd District created “GroceryBuddies,” an app that “connects high school students with at-risk individuals to help deliver groceries and run errands.” These are just two of the over 1,000 applications created by students to help their communities through this uncertain time.
Given the educational disruption caused by the pandemic, the Congressional App Challenge radically transformed the competition platform to provide students the tools and resources they needed to start and finish their submissions. We hosted various events including the Back to School Webinar Series, which consisted of informational sessions on utilizing programming languages to create apps. We made it easier than ever before for students to pre-register for the Congressional App Challenge and, through our sponsors, we provided tons of free resources for students to code at home amid stay-at-home orders. Thanks to these changes, students turned out in droves to participate in the House’s 6th annual app development competition.
As we near our end-of-the-year celebration event, #HouseOfCode, we reflect on a year that has been unlike any other. The mission of our organization remains the same, we strive to spark an interest in coding and STEM across all areas of the country. We want to provide a chance for students of all backgrounds to participate in this groundbreaking STEM competition. It is more critical than ever that first-time coders have the tools to pursue a potential career field and cultivate a diverse pipeline of talent in every congressional district across the country.
With this year’s inspiring apps focused on improving local communities, we cannot help but to look to our roots of public service. Millions of students do not have access to the internet and millions more do not have access to critical math and science classes. The education divide has been known in this country, but COVID has exacerbated it to new heights. As we wrap up 2020 and prepare for the 2021 App Challenge, the Congressional App Challenge continues to advocate for better broadband access and provide a platform for students to learn more about computer science. With 91% of our students reporting that they plan to continue coding, we look to a bright future with service-minded individuals leading the way.