As COVID-19 continues to challenge educational efforts across the nation, the Congressional App Challenge had it’s most successful year yet, leveraging the power of Congress to inspire the next generation of American STEM leaders. This year’s record-setting competition provided an innovative outlet for a diverse set of students nationwide.
This year alone, 308 Members of Congress hosted Congressional App Challenges in districts across 49 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Mariana Islands, and Washington, D.C.. More than 6,000 students from across the country participated in the challenge. All told, the students put in an incredible 128,000 hours of code and submitted 1,851 original apps for consideration in this year’s competition.
In response to the obstacles caused by COVID-19, the Congressional App Challenge created a series of original initiatives to ensure students around the nation had access to the materials and inspiration necessary to compete in this year’s challenge. In March, the Congressional App Challenge participated in the #BuildforCOVID19 Global Hackathon, one of the first global initiatives to use the power of tech to fight the virus. In April, the program launched its Code at Home initiative, a comprehensive virtual hub made up of free resources from program partners for students to learn how to code from home. At the same time, the Challenge launched its first-ever pre-registration program, allowing over 1,000 students to vet their own eligibility and begin coding prior to the official launch of the competition. Through the fall, the Congressional App Challenge presented the Back to School Webinar Series, a series of webinars hosted in conjunction with supporters of the program, which provided free training and mentorship opportunities for over 900 App Challengers in 49 states.
The Congressional App Challenge Responds to COVID-19
Now in its sixth year, the Congressional App Challenge has established itself as the largest student computer science competition in the world with a broad national, yet hyper-local reach.. This year’s competition was the largest yet, with more students eligible to participate than ever before. The 308 participating Members of Congress represent over two-thirds of Americans, providing inspiration to students in all corners of the nation. The over 6,000 students registered for this year’s competition represent the second largest total in the program’s history. These students created 1,851 fully-functioning apps, with some congressional districts receiving dozens of applications.
Students are permitted to create an app on any topic using any coding language or platform. This encourages students to harness their endless creativity to address issues in their own communities. This year, over 50% of Congressional App Challenge entries directly or indirectly address issues caused by COVID-19. Over 91% of students report that they intend to continue coding and 95% say they’re more likely to pursue a career in STEM after participating. Members of Congress announce district winners between November 15th and December 31st, 2020.
The Congressional App Challenge is an official initiative of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Members of Congress host contests in their districts for middle school and high school students, encouraging them to learn to code and inspiring them to pursue careers in computer science. Each participating Member of Congress selects a winning app from their district, and each winning team is invited to showcase their winning app to Congress during the annual #HouseOfCode festival.
In the six years of the Congressional App Challenge, the program has yielded 1,442 App Challenges across 49 states. The non-profit Internet Education Foundation provides the Congressional App Challenge with staffing and support. Thousands of functional apps have been created by over 30,000 students, and participant demographics surpass all industry diversity metrics.