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congressional app challengePHOTO: Colin Martin, teacher Laura Gesin, Jack Hester and Michael Cielecki of Communications High (missing is Vaughn Battista).

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) has announced the winners of this year’s New Jersey Fourth Congressional District Congressional App Challenge, part of a nationwide competition for middle and high school students to showcase their software app-developing skills and teamwork.

   “I am pleased to congratulate Communications High School students Vaughn Battista of Tinton Falls, Michael Cielecki of Spring Lake Heights, Jack Hester of Oceanport and Colin Martin of Red Bank for their first place-winning app, ‘Commuitas,’” said Rep. Smith.  “They developed a unique ‘task-sharing’ mobile application which allows users to barter their skills and abilities with other users to share tasks in exchange for a virtual points system. The judges thought it was very unique and well devised.”

   Timed to coincide with Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), December 9-15, 2019, Smith said this year’s contest drew a record number of entries from Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer Counties.

   “Sixty-one students participated in teams and as individuals to design 20 apps. The ideas and the execution of their apps was just phenomenal. Given the talent and good competition, we expanded the number of winning apps this year from two to three,” he added, “and this year, Communications High School, a Monmouth County Vocational School District career academy, took all three top spots.” Previously, only the top finisher and the runner up were acknowledged.

   The second-place app is “Spike’s Underwater Adventure,” designed by students Bella Matuch of Spring Lake, Desiree Negrin of Fair Haven and Jill Tracy of Belmar, and the third-place finisher is “GreenScreen,” designed by students Nicolas Chunn of Tinton Falls, Matthew Emery of Howell and Neil Estrada of Red Bank.

   Rep. Smith recognized the panel of expert judges who scored the apps saying, “I want to thank the highly specialized judges for their contribution to this competition.” 

   The three-member panel of high-tech professionals from the district who volunteered as judges were: Roy LaManna, of Freehold, President and CEO of Vydia; Christopher Kelly, of Hamilton, UE/UI Designer at Vonage; and Debrah Smith (no relation to Rep. Smith), of Jackson, Director of IT for a large law office.

About the Winning Apps:

Communitas is a task-sharing app that allows users to exchange helpful tasks with members of their community in exchange for virtual points. Communitas allows users to do tasks for others and earn a digital currency, Communicoin, which they can “spend” to have other people do tasks for them.  Communicoin are gained and lost through completing tasks for others and getting others to complete tasks for you; no actual currency is involved in the exchange.  The designers said that they were inspired to create Communitas by currency exchange apps like Venmo, but with a focus on goodwill and an incentivization of community service. 

Spike’s Underwater Adventure is a set of games intended to help children improve fine motor skills. The games are designed to practice hand-eye coordination, response time, and finger dexterity in a way that is engaging and fun. The app aims to offer a solution for parents and educators to help their children or students develop fine motor skills in a casual and enjoyable manner. The designers said that they wanted to create an app that was truly beneficial to children in a market that is undersaturated—motor skill development is overlooked in the digital market, and they sought to fill that niche.

GreenScreen is intended to lead Americans to be more climate-conscious by helping them track and reduce their carbon footprint.  Recognizing the extreme danger that climate change poses to the global community, the designers were inspired to create the app to help people who want to reduce their carbon impact but don’t know how. 

Click here to read about the 2018 winners.

About Congressional App Challenge:

   This is Congressman Smith’s fourth year participating in the Congressional App Challenge.  Created in 2014, the Congressional App Challenge (CAC) is a nationwide competition for middle and high school students to work with their peers to develop computer coding and software application skills. The challenge was created to foster STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) among young students and emphasize their importance for the future especially in areas of the economy like cybersecurity, intellectual property, and the app economy.

   The highest scoring app from each Congressional District is eligible to be displayed in the US Capitol Building and featured on the House of Representatives’ website, www.house.gov. The winning students are invited to #HouseofCode Capitol Hill Reception in Washington D.C. in the spring, and the winning app receives $250 in Amazon Web Services credits.

   Since its inception, the CAC has seen a 164 percent increase in student participation, demonstrating the importance and value of technology today.  The contest is sponsored nationally by the Internet Education Foundation, and 303 members of Congress made the Challenge available in their districts this year.

   Middle and high school students from Smith’s Fourth Congressional District interested in participating in next year’s contest may contact Rep. Smith’s Freehold office at 732-780-3035.  Information is also available at www.congressionalappchallenge.us.

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