Thursday, August 13, 2020
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Congress launches annual app challenge

The US Congress launched its annual challenge for programmers to develop apps two days ago, and representatives from across the country are enthusiastic.

The challenge is one of the best Congressional resolutions past in recent years for getting students interested in learning about and exploring science, technology, engineering, and math.

The idea for the Congressional App Challenge (CAC) was first publicly introduced in 2013, when the House passed HR 77—Academic Competition Resolution of 2013 with overwhelming support, 411-3. In 2014, the House of Representatives ran a pilot version of the program, under the leadership of Reps Bob Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia, and Anna G Eshoo, Democrat of California. When over 80 members participated, the House realized that the program’s tremendous potential.

In 2015, the Committee on House Administration appointed the Internet Education Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit to serve as the program’s non-governmental sponsor, and launched the first official CAC under Congressional Co-Chairs, Reps Mimi Walters, Republican of California, and Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York. Reps Ed Royce, Republican of California, and Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts, took over as co-chairs in 2016, and in the first two years of the challenge, the CAC has reached nearly 4,000 students across 33 states.

Within their districts, members of Congress host district-wide competitions, which run from now through November. To compete, students write original code for an app. Winners will receive prizes, including a share in a $50,000 Amazon gift card, and have their app on display in the Capitol Building in Washington and on the US website for a year.

All but two representatives in Maryland—Andy Harris, Republican of District 1, and John Sarbanes, Democrat of District 3—and 11 of Illinois’s 18 representatives are said to be participating. You can register for the contest if you live in the district of a sponsoring representative. (Illinois districts not participating, according to the website, are Bobby Rush, Democrat of the 1st District; Luis Gutiérrez, Democrat of the 4th; Danny Davis, Democrat of the 7th; Bill Foster, Democrat of the 11th; Mike Bost, Republican of the 12th; Adam Kinzinger, Republican of the 16th; and Cheri Bustos, Democrat of the 17th.)

“I look forward to seeing the brilliant products that Minnesota’s students come up with,” the Minnesota Star-Tribune quoted US Rep Tom Emmer as saying. “Our nation is currently facing a major skills gap crisis, and the technology sector has been hit hard, making this challenge even more important.”

Eligible students can register for the challenge by clicking through to their representative’s registration site and signing up.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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