Fossil trio codes a victory with the National Congressional App Challenge

Aislyn McDonald, Staff Writer

The Congressional App Challenge is a national challenge that encourages students in the 2nd Congressional District to create their own application. Students must be in middle or high school to participate, and are given a span of five months to code their app and create a video presentation to submit to the judges.

Georgia Blakely, Sujal Dhakal, and Cooper Sipperly made the late decision to join the challenge with only three weeks to code and complete their app, yet managed to secure success in the end.

Computer Science Honors Society is where the three were notified of the challenge. They thought it would be a cool opportunity, and enjoyable to work on together. With only three weeks left to finish the app, they were racing the clock to get it finished.

“We spent [nearly] 12 hours on a discord call, making our presentation and recording everything the day before the deadline,” Blakely reveals.

Prior to hearing of the opportunity, the idea for an attendance app sparked at the Hackathon in late September. The original plan for their app was a map that showed endangered animals, which were linked to various charities supporting those animals along with information on them. The attendance idea was brought up once again after their original idea proved to be unattainable.

The only reason it did not work out was because of the painstaking data collection process, and they could not even be sure it was 100 percent accurate. Dhakal went through a long research process to find the data about endangered species in a specific area, yet he still was not able to find what they needed.

Thus led to the idea from the Hackathon, ‘Check In’. Dhakal and Blakely describe their app as a mobile attendance app. Essentially, students can sign up for their classes and each day a new PIN is created, with a daily question to mark them present. The end goal is to enable edits for teachers and admin to be able to oversee classes. The teacher of the class would also be able to customize the pin and question and make edits to attendance if needed.

Each member of their trio had a specific role to contribute to the app. Blakely was the visual analysis lead, Sipperly was the executive video producer, and Dhakal was the “main prodigy coder” according to Sipperly.

As part of the winnings of the challenge, the team’s logo and app description is hung in the White House, and would get a call with Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District Representative, Joe Neguse to announce their further winnings.

In late December, Blakely, Dhakal, and Sipperly got together and received their long awaited call informing them of their victory. However, the call came from a secretary of Neguse. Dhakal, their spokesperson, is still unable to reach Neguse for their prize announcement.

Nevertheless, the three were grateful that they found this opportunity that allowed them to put forth their coding knowledge to work together towards an end goal.

Blakely reflects on their experience, “It’s definitely something that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise done by ourselves. So it was cool to learn from each other and to have an actual task [to be working on]. Coding can be a really individual thing, so when you find people that you can work on stuff with, you learn a lot and it’s more fun instead of just doing everything by yourself.”