US Congress Wants App Ideas From Young Developers

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Have a great idea for an app but don’t know how to sell it?

Take it to the U.S. Congress.

The Congressional App Challenge offers the opportunity to present your application to participating members of Congress. Participants win prizes, have their work displayed in the Capitol Building in Washington and receive recognition for their work.

“The Congressional App Challenge’s mission is to inspire, include, and innovate efforts around STEM, coding, and computer science education,” the competition’s website says in its mission statement.

The challenge, first launched in 2015, hosted 2,150 students, with winners from 123 districts last year. One winner, Trisha Prabhu, developed her app at 16 and later presented her idea on “Shark Tank,” a popular television program where entrepreneurs compete for venture funding.

The app, called ReThink, filters out negative messages to prevent cyberbullying and allow users to rewrite their messages before sending them.

“Cyberbullies hide behind their screens and use mean, tormenting and humiliating words every day to bully others,” Prabhu said during her pitch on the show. “ReThink stops cyberbullying by stopping hurtful messages before the damage is done.”

Other competitors developed applications meant to help users with unique challenges. Sneha Malineni and Suzanne Bonamici  won in their district for presenting Forget Me Not, an app that helps Alzheimer’s patients remember the names of the important people in their life. Other winners created platforms that could teach the public about recycling, public safety and entrepreneurship.

The complete list of winners and their explanations for their winning product can be found here.

This year students will have from July 26 until November 1 to submit their entries. Teams can consist of up to four people, and winners must submit three-minute videos detailing what their app does and how to use it.

Panels of local judges evaluate the apps on their creativity, design quality and the level of programming skills required.

Rachel Décoste, the new director of the Congressional App Challenge, said in a press release that she was looking forward to work for a cause that encourages young people to pursue STEM fields and develop their own talents. Her career in coding included coding air traffic control systems for the Federal Aviation Agency.

“Learning to code as a teenager opened the door to a fantastic career for me. I hope the Congressional App Challenge will be a catalyst for the next generation of tech leaders,” Décoste said.

“I’m excited to join a team of people who are passionate about increasing STEM among America’s youth and connecting the U.S. Congress with their local tech communities.”

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Elizabeth Konneker

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