Why do Members of Congress love the App Challenge so much? We interviewed Rep. Randy Feenstra from Iowa’s 4th Congressional District to find out! Rep. Feenstra is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, the House Committee on the Budget, and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. This is also Rep. Feenstra’s first time hosting the Congressional App Challenge!
Congressional App Challenge (CAC): Why do you think students should take part in the Congressional App Challenge?
Rep. Feenstra: It is a great opportunity for students interested in STEM-related fields to showcase their creativity and talent with others who share the same interests across the nation.
CAC: Students are only allowed to take part in the challenge if hosted by their representative. Why did you think it was essential to promote this challenge in your district?
Rep. Feenstra: STEM education and related fields are essential to Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. I view this challenge as a great way to expose middle and high school students to opportunities the field has to offer in a unique and competitive way.
CAC: How will you encourage students in your district to take part in the challenge?
Rep. Feenstra: I am spreading the word to middle and high schools throughout the district. Additionally, there is a great prize for the winner — their work will be featured on the House of Representatives’ website and displayed in a U.S. Capitol exhibit for visitors from across the country to see.
CAC: What advice do you have for students who may be hesitant to participate in the challenge because they don’t think they are strong enough coders?
Rep. Feenstra: This is an incredible opportunity for students to strengthen their coding ability, and the challenge will help develop skills regardless of what your current comfort level is. I would encourage hesitant students to be confident in their skills and work hard, because you never know what you can accomplish unless you put your mind to it and try!
CAC: What do you think the long-term benefits of having the Congressional App Challenge are?
Rep. Feenstra: I hope the challenge will stimulate interest in science and technology and expose tomorrow’s industry leaders to the variety of careers in the field — while also giving students the opportunity to participate in a unique competition which promotes teamwork among students.
CAC: As a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, what do you believe to be the greatest issue facing the tech industry today? And what do you believe Congress should do about it?
Rep. Feenstra: I believe one of the greatest issues we face, especially in the district I represent, is a shortage of folks who have the appropriate training and skills to fill critically important jobs in the science and technology sectors. That is why I have been a strong advocate for expanding STEM education programs, like helping pass the Rural STEM Education Research Act out of the House. We must do more to inform students of the incredible opportunities in this area, and this challenge is a great way to help accomplish this goal.
CAC: The App Challenge is a bipartisan initiative with support from both Republicans and Democrats. Why should members, regardless of their political affiliation, host App Challenges in their districts?
Rep. Feenstra: The Congressional App Challenge is an incredibly unique competitive opportunity for middle and high school students, providing students with an interest in the field an opportunity to showcase their talents to a wide audience. It is incumbent upon all leaders to encourage students across the country to engage more in science and technology.
CAC: The switch to online learning this past year revealed the significant digital divide across the country. Whether it be increasing rural broadband infrastructure or ensuring affordable access in urban centers, how do you think Congress should address the digital divide?
Rep. Feenstra: It is imperative that rural Iowans have the same quality internet service as those living in urban areas. Carriers need to be able to deploy future-proof networks to close the digital divide, such as the one being completed by Premier Communications in my district. We also need to prioritize investments in broadband infrastructure to ensure the future success and revitalization of both rural and urban America.
CAC: Is there a piece of technology that you can’t live without?
Rep. Feenstra: My phone! As a Congressman, I am constantly getting calls, emails, and texts about a variety of issues and topics, and I wouldn’t be able to do my job effectively without having the ability to communicate with my constituents and colleagues.
CAC: What is the latest piece of technology that excites you?
Rep. Feenstra: I am interested to see developments with autonomous vehicles. Although there seem to be plenty of kinks left to work out, I think it is an incredible idea that will lower the risk of car accidents in the future.
Remember, the App Challenge is live so students can register and submit their apps between now and November 1st!
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