#AskCAC Interview with Rep. Robin Kelly (IL-02)

We conducted another great interview with Rep. Robin Kelly from Illinois’s 2nd Congressional District this week! Rep. Kelly serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

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Congressional App Challenge (CAC): Why do you think students should take part in the Congressional App Challenge?

Rep. Kelly: The Congressional App Challenge provides an opportunity for students to develop real world, applicable skills while participating as an individual or team in this exciting competition. It is also a chance to learn about app development and provides an opportunity to learn coding, exposing more students to the field of computer science.

CAC: How will you encourage students in your district to take part in the challenge?

Rep. Kelly: Myself, as well as my staff, are reaching out to educators and schools in my district to help recruit students. We had our most participants for the 2019 Challenge  when a computer science teacher incentivized students to participate through their class project! 

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. Kelly: I would tell students that this competition is for coders of all skill levels, and if you have never coded before, now is the perfect time to learn. The Congressional App Challenge website has many free resources to teach students to code. I would encourage all students to learn to code, not only is it a high in demand skill in the job market, but it also develops soft skills such as problem solving, logic, and creativity.

CAC: What do you think the long-term benefits of having the Congressional App Challenge are?

Rep. Kelly: The Congressional App Challenge will create lasting benefits for young coders and their communities. Participating in the Challenge creates interest in STEM and develops applicable skills for the next generation of our workforce. I believe many participants will continue their STEM journey and be responsible for the creation of many innovative apps and programs for years to come. 

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. Kelly: In our modern economy, jobs in technological sectors are growing in both Republican and Democratic districts. Regardless of where Members are on the political spectrum, the Congressional App Challenge works to actively engage students from communities traditionally underrepresented in these fields, while connecting Members of Congress to emerging technologies through interactions with their student constituents.

CAC: Why is early intervention in STEM so important?

Rep. Kelly: From what we understand about learning opportunities and how children receive information, we recognize that younger children’s brains are more likely to act as a sponge for new information. Providing a foundational STEM education through the Congressional App Challenge allows children to retain more information and understand the value of these fields. Additionally, with early intervention, there is an opportunity to address learning gaps that leave students from disadvantaged communities behind.

CAC: What efforts have you taken within your district to expand STEM and computer science education?

Rep. Kelly: In my district, we have worked to address fundamental issues with access to broadband and computers. I have worked with rural communities to expand access to broadband and fought for funding to bring back to schools throughout my district so they can have access to reliable technology. 

CAC: The switch to online learning this past year revealed significant learning equity gaps across the nation. What do you believe to be the greatest challenge to educational equity?

Rep. Kelly:  The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted existing inequality in learning opportunities for students throughout the nation. I believe one of the greatest challenges contributing to the learning gap is access to technology in underserved communities. For school districts located in areas without reliable broadband services, or low-income communities without the resources to provide computers to students, these children are at a distinct disadvantage compared with their peers. This creates a learning gap that if left unaddressed, will only continue to grow as these students move throughout their primary school years. 

Remember, the App Challenge is live so students can register and submit their apps between now and November 1st

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