FAQ For Congressional Offices

On this page, Congressional offices can find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions from the 2016 CAC. These FAQs will be updated prior to the 2017 launch of the CAC in July.


If you are looking for a specific answer you can’t find, please contact our Congressional Affairs Director, Melissa Medina, at [email protected].

  • Q: When can my office sign up to participate?
    A: Congressional sign-ups for the 2016 Congressional App Challenge are now open!

    Please fill out this form to sign up. The process should take less than five minutes. Please read the form carefully, as it includes important information about who should fill it out and what the next steps are.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: Please save the “edit your response” link you receive at the end of the sign-up form. You will need this link if you need to edit the contact information later on.

     

    Q: What happens after we sign up?
    A: Our Congressional Affairs Director will be in touch.

    Once you fill out the sign up, you will receive an e-mail from Melissa Medina, Director of Congressional Affairs, with the information your office needs to get started. If you do not receive an e-mail from Melissa within 3 business days, please e-mail her at [email protected]

     

  • Q: What are the main challenge dates?
    A: The Challenge is open from July 18 – November 2, 2016.

    • July 18, 2016: Launch Day! Students in participating districts can start registering and submitting their apps.
    • November 2, 2016: Challenge Submission Period closes.
    • November 3 – November 30: Judging Period
    • December, 2015: National announcement of winners.
    • February, 2016: House of Code, our annual reception in DC to honor participants.

    We will update this section with more details in the near future.

  • Q: What official resources are my office allowed to use to run this Challenge?
    A: You are allowed to use all MRA resources, as long as the use is handbook-compliant.

    Per Committee Resolution 114 (pg. 4), your office is allowed to use any of the following MRA resources, as long as the use is handbook-compliant:

    1. The Frank, provided the content of such communication is frankable;
    2. Advertisements that are otherwise compliant with Handbook and Franking regulations;
    3. Food and Beverage expenses that are otherwise compliant with Handbook regulations;
    4. Rental of rooms, chairs, and audio systems that are otherwise compliant with Handbook regulations;
    5. Gifts and donations that are otherwise compliant;
    6. Staff time and the use of incidental resources;
    7. Use of letterhead and official seal of the House by the Member Office, provided such letterhead and seal are not used for solicitations;
    8. Mileage; and
    9. Member official web site and social media.

     

    Q: Are there resources we can use besides our MRA?
    A. Absolutely.

    IEF strives to make executing the Congressional App Challenge as straightforward and simple as possible. We have put together a toolkit, flyer, and social media graphics that will help each office implement the challenge with ease. These resources will be made live in the coming weeks and will be updated throughout the Challenge.

  • Q. How do students submit their apps? Where?
    A: You can find the full process for student submissions, here.

    Here is a summary of the student submission process:

    1. Check eligibility
    2. Register and get Submission ID Number
    3. Create your app!
    4. Create your submission
    5. Review the Submission Checklist
    6. Submit app
    7. Complete the Exit Questionnaire

    For more details, visit the page outlining the Submission Process.

    Q. How will Congressional Offices get the apps that students submit?
    A: Student submissions will be listed in your Congressional District Information Excel Sheet.

    After your offices signs up, your office will be emailed the link to a page that includes all your student registration and submission information. Each office receives their own page. DO NOT SHARE YOUR LINK with anyone outside your office, for any reason.

     

    Q. Can we check how many students have signed up?
    A: Yes, you can. That information will also be listed on the Congressional District Information Excel Sheet.

    The Congressional District Information Excel Sheet will include all information about registrations and submissions. That’s where you’ll find how many students have signed up in your district. IEF vets the registrations and submissions as they come in and will update the pages as we confirm that the students are signing up and submitting in the correct place.

     

    Q. How will the Congressional office receive the final submissions?
    A: The Congressional District Information Excel Sheet.
     
    Due to the volume of offices and submissions, please allow a 3 business day delay following the conclusion of the 2016 Congressional App Challenge for IEF to finish vetting and updating all of the Congressional District Information Sheets.

     

    Q. What types of app can the students submit?
    A: Students may create and submit any type of app.

    IEF does not limit the type of app students may create. This challenge is platform and topic-agnostic. That said, if an office would like to set a theme for their district, they may do so. If your office chooses to set a theme, please be sure to contact our Congressional Affairs Director, Melissa Medina, to discuss your plan.

     

    Q. Are there examples of video submissions from last year that we can share with students?
    A: Yes. You can find all the 2015 Winners here.

  • Q. Will the winning students get any prizes?
    A: Yes.

    Amazon Web Services (AWS) has generously donated $50,000 in AWS credits, to be divided among the winning students. Additionally, winning students get to meet their Member of Congress, and have their apps put on display in the Capitol Building, on house.gov (10 million unique visitors per year), and on this website.

     

    Q. What are AWS credits?

    AWS credits can be used for access to AWS products and services.  The credits can be utilized to access computing, storage, database, and many other resources on the AWS platform — in order to: build applications such as websites, mobile applications, blogs, etc; do database work and run analytics; store large and small digital files; and so on.  $1 worth of AWS promotional credits is equal to $1 worth of usage on AWS. 

     

    Q. Can we (Congressional Offices) ask for donations?
    A: Offices may ask for donations (such as prizes) as long as they’ve completed the Ethics Committee waiver and received permission.

    “A Member may only solicit donations (including in-kind) on behalf of the officially-sanctioned competition if the Member first receives written approval from the Committee on Ethics.” (Pg. 4 of Committee Resolution 114.)

     

    Q. Can an organization donate a prize to student participants or the winner?
    A: Yes, within certain rules.

    • Donations worth $50 or less: Organizations may offer to donate prizes worth less than $50 to the student participants and/or winners of the Congressional App Challenge. IMPORTANT: Prizes shall not be directed to the participating Member’s office; instead, it should be directed to the entrants and winners of the competition. Examples of such prizes might include:
      • A $50 gift certificate donated by a local business to the winner of the Congressional App Challenge in a specific district.
      • Three gift certificates worth $25, $15 and $10 gift are donated by a local organization to the first, second and third place winners of their district’s App Challenge. (Totaling $50).
      • A tour of a local business organized and hosted by that organization.
      • NOT ALLOWED: An organization donates three $50 gift certificates (Totaling $150) for the top three winners. This would violate the $50 limit.
    • Donations worth more than $50: Each participating Member must agree to direct any donations in the form of (a) technical assistance with the competition, or (b) prizes for the entrants and winners of the competition, to the sponsor if the value of the donation or donations from a single source is more than $50. This is to ensure fairness across the country. For example, if you want to donate tickets (valued over $50) to an event for the winner, you must be willing to make that prize available to all the winners from participating districts across the country.
  • Q. Can our office host a STEM related event in the district for students?
    A: Yes, and you should!

    Congressional offices are allowed to hold events as long as they comply with the requirements set forth by the Congressional Handbook. You are  absolutely encouraged to host a hackathon or some other coding-related educational event, as long as it’s handbook-compliant. Please feel free to contact us if you have questions about how to go about setting up an event.

  • Q. Can we ask people to serve as judges, or is that soliciting?
    A: Yes, you can ask people to serve as judges.

    Asking someone to serve as a judge for your Challenge is not considered soliciting.

     

    Q. What kinds of people should we ask to serve as judges?

    We recommend having a diverse selection of judges, from different industries and backgrounds. You should have an approximately even number of male and female judges.

    The judges cannot have a conflict of interest and there should be an odd number, in the case of a tie. Listed below are some suggestions for the type of people you might ask. Remember, these are simply suggestions. Feel free to think creatively.

    • A Computer Science Professor or College Student from a local College
    • A tech entrepreneur
    • A local celebrity related to STEM education
    • An employee at a tech related company in the district

     

    Q. When should we start looking for judges?
    A: As soon as you’re signed up and ready! 

     

    Q. Do we need to tell IEF who our judges are?
    A: Yes.

    IEF needs to track judge recruitment to make sure offices are on track and to make sure that judging panels have been appropriately selected. Once your judges have been selected, you must record them on your Congressional District Information Sheet.

     

    Q. I’m worried about finding the right kinds of judges, fast enough. What can I do?
    A: IEF has you covered.

    IEF recruits judges on a national level who will be able to step in and provide assistance if you are unable to find judges in time. We highly recommend that you find your own judges, as this is a great opportunity for your office to interact with local STEM professionals in your district, but if you need help, we’re happy and able to assist you.

     

    Q. What do Congressional offices need to give the judges?
    A: The links to the student Demonstration Videos, as well as the grading rubric you’ve chosen to use.

    After the Congressional App Challenge ends, offices will be able to see their submissions on the Congressional District Information Sheet. You can then copy that information and send it to your judges, along with the grading rubric to your judges for review. DO NOT give your judges access to the Congressional District Information Sheet. Simply copy the information and send it to them in a clean document.

    • Here is a judging one-pager with a sample grading rubric. In addition to this one-pager for the judges, you will need to include the links to the app videos.
  • Q. When is #HouseofCode?
    A. Sometime in March of 2017.

    The date for the 2016 Congressional App Challenge #HouseOfCode has not yet been determined, but it will be held approximately 2 months after the conclusion of the 2016 Challenge, so that IEF has time to invite all the winners to attend and give the sufficient time to make travel arrangements.

     

    Q. Can we pay for our winners to come to #HouseOfCode to demo their app?
    A. Unfortunately, no.

    Per House Administration rules, the MRA can’t be used to pay for student travel. Mileage and incidental expense reimbursement is permitted for Member/staff.

    All winning students or teams are invited to demo the app they built at the #HouseOfCode event. The costs for travel is the responsibility of the student. If a student or team is interested in participating, please e-mail Melissa Medina at [email protected].