Jack West, a political professional with experience on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail, will be joining the Congressional App Challenge as Congressional Operations Coordinator. The Congressional App Challenge is a congressional initiative to encourage student engagement in coding and computer science through a series of concurrent contests hosted by Members of Congress.
“Jack brings forth an energetic and passionate perspective to the program,” said Joseph Alessi, Congressional App Challenge Program Director. “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jack will be a key player in expansion efforts of the CAC throughout the country.”
Jack will bring Capitol Hill experience, as well as experience on the campaign trail. He previously served as a Legislative Intern with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and a Field Organizer with the Biden for President coordinated campaign in Minnesota. He has extensive experience crafting political messaging, organizing grassroots movements, and engaging with constituents of all ages.
“I’m excited about the prospect of encouraging our nation’s youth to learn more about coding and computer science,” said West. “In the era of COVID-19, STEM education is a vital part of developing key skills for the workforce of tomorrow. I look forward to encouraging STEM education for all American students.”
Jack is a May 2020 graduate from Indiana University with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Spanish. He currently resides in Washington, DC.
In 2020, the CAC reached 308 members of Congress across 49 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Mariana Islands, and Washington, D.C.. 1,851 applications were submitted with over 6000 students participating. The CAC continues to increase its presence across the country and outpace tech-industry diversity metrics. The CAC aims to continue its growth in 2021 and beyond.
We are thrilled to announce that Charlotte Willner will be the founding Executive Director of the Trust & Safety Professional Association (TSPA) and its sibling organization, the Trust & Safety Foundation Project (TSF). We launched TSPA and TSF earlier this year to support the global community of professionals who develop and enforce principles and policies that define acceptable behavior online, and to improve society’s understanding of trust and safety. We are delighted that Charlotte will start at the helm of both organizations next month.
We are excited for Charlotte to lead TSPA and TSF because of her pioneering work shaping the field of online trust and safety for more than a decade, grappling with the challenges and complexities of developing and implementing guidelines for online behavior as the internet has grown. She’s an effective and compassionate leader who has built and coached multiple international teams doing this critical work, and she has a record of caring for the professional development of others.
Charlotte joins TSPA and TSF from Pinterest, where she has been the Head of Trust and Safety Operations, overseeing online safety, law enforcement response, and intellectual property matters. She previously led international support, and built out the first Safety Operations team, at Facebook.
Charlotte has made a huge impact in her in-house roles in trust and safety, and we’re excited to see her continue to shape the broader community too. Please sign up here so we can share developments with you as they happen, and follow us on Twitter, too.
The Congressional App Challenge is excited to announce our Back to School webinar series. This series of webinars, hosted in conjunction with supporters of the program, will provide free training and mentorship opportunities for App Challengers past and present and will take place through the fall.
The Congressional App Challenge team is working to finalize the details of these webinars now, and will be announcing them as they are confirmed. Please find our current list of confirmed webinars below.
This session will serve as our official welcome to the Back to School Webinar Series. The opening will include special welcome messages from Members of Congress and supporters of the program.
Challengers will then be joined by Apple Education to learn about the fast-growing app economy and the tools and techniques that produce great apps. You’ll hear about Swift, an intuitive and open source programming language that’s easy to learn, yet powerful enough to make the some of the most popular apps on the App Store. And, you’ll learn about free resources from Apple to help you use Swift, Xcode, and the app design process that professional developers use to make apps for iOS, macOS, tvOS, watchOS and beyond.
Download with Developers presented by ACT | The App Association
You know the phrase “there’s an app for that,” but do you have dreams of being the brains behind those apps? The companies that make up the membership of the App Association have been there, done that, and want to share their stories with the aspiring innovators of tomorrow.
Join the App Association and the Congressional App Challenge to learn how to leverage your current or future coding skills into your own app or dev shop. You’ll hear from App Association members about their experiences and what they wished they had known when they were starting their own careers.
Panelists to be announced soon.
The Congressional App Challenge’s Back to School webinar series is free to attend and open to students, parents, educators, and Congressional App Challenge stakeholders. Please contact our team with any questions.
As students, parents, and educators across the nation plan for an uncertain school year due to the ongoing public health crisis posed by COVID-19, Congress is working to provide every student with an opportunity to pursue a passion for STEM fields. The 2020 Congressional App Challenge, designed for virtual competition, provides students coders of every skill level with a chance to be honored by Congress for their original applications.
The 2020-21 school year faces considerable uncertainty due to COVID-19. According to Education Week, all but two states had either mandated or recommended all schools close until the end of the 2019-20 academic year, and plans are not yet in place in many states for the fall semester. Schools are attempting to establish safe procedures for in-person learning, but it’s unclear at this point whether or not that will be sustainable. While many schools are currently optimistic about opening, the current acceleration of the virus may force districts to reconsider their fall semester plans. Given this uncertainty, it is essential that we help students continue to build on their educational foundations.
Returning normalcy to K-12 education is a major priority for educators and legislators alike. During a typical summer break, students lose knowledge, with the largest losses occurring in math and science. Despite great efforts from teachers, parents, and students, the current rate of K-12 learning is suffering during the pandemic, and disproportionately affecting STEM fields. We need to recognize this STEM education crisis and support students and educators as best we can.
Unfortunately, this crisis is likely to exacerbate the inequalities between student populations. In the best-case scenario, distance learning will support students about the same as in-person education. But many schools are struggling to provide that kind of teaching, and many parents are struggling to support their children with that intensity of home learning. In the worst-case scenario, education has basically stopped and will not continue until in-person education resumes, with knowledge gradually fading away. According to Psychology Today, children in these worst-case scenarios may end up with a knowledge gap equivalent to a full school year behind students who are continuing to learn as before.
Research compiled by Brookings indicates widening differences in math skills due to the pandemic.
For many parents, making sure their children are successfully learning from home is simply not possible as they continue working from home or outside of it as essential workers. Many students don’t have access to devices they can use for distance learning or are trying to coordinate the use of one computer with their siblings and their parents. Many students live in rural areas where they may not even have broadband access from their homes. Part of the Congressional App Challenge mission is to include students who are traditionally underrepresented in the tech community, so this issue is very close to our heart. We want to continue talking with educators and parents about how to best support them and students in this time, and make sure underrepresented communities aren’t left behind in this year’s challenge. Our resources page is full of free training for students of every experience level who are learning how to code from home. While we cannot provide internet access to those who lack access to it, we are working hard to ensure that students can compete even with the most limited connection and hardware.
By participating in the Congressional App Challenge, students can combat some of the learning loss they’re currently experiencing. By using free online resources, coding for the App Challenge can be a great remote project for students to focus on. Many of our students have been inspired by the challenges they see in their community and in the world, and many will aim to create solutions to local and global problems. We’ve seen great success from apps coded as part of a school curriculum, so participating in the App Challenge can be a good option for teachers to continue to teach computer science in-person or remotely. We’re currently coordinating interviews with teachers who incorporated the App Challenge into their classroom last year, and we’re hoping to provide more advice and resources for doing so. For students without consistent access to a computer, there are great options to learn how to code on a smartphone, like the KhanAcademy app. Our team is currently researching ways students without access to a computer can still design an app and participate in the challenge. Over a third of last year’s App Challengers identified as beginner coders, so not having prior experience should not be a dissentive to participating or designing a curriculum that incorporates coding for the App Challenge.
CAC winners at House of Code 2019. The 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic.
While COVID-19 is presenting many challenges to student education, especially in the STEM field, and to already underprivileged communities, the Congressional App Challenge Team is committed to standing with our community, and offering any resources we can to minimize the damage this pandemic is causing to student learning. Please look at our resources, and partners pages, and look forward to more content from teachers and partner organizations in the coming weeks.