CHS sweeps the Congressional App Challenge


CHS takes home first, second, and third place in the 2021 Congressional App Challenge.

Zoe Conner-Bennett

Known as the artsiest of the MCVSD career academies, CHS is widely recognized for its professional-level TV and radio programs, advanced graphic design classes and extraordinarily talented art students. Though not often commended for its computer programming courses, CHS made an impressive name for itself in the 2020 Congressional App Challenge, and it isn’t the first time.

The Congressional App Challenge, according to its website, is “the most prestigious prize in student computer science.” Started in 2015, the competition judges apps created by middle and high school students, broken down by congressional districts. The only requirement is the submission of a video demonstrating the new application; the focus of the app and the language it’s created in are up to the students. 

Advanced Java Programming teacher Laura Gesin has been incorporating the challenge into her curriculum since 2016. A student group from CHS has won the competition every year except 2017, though the school still received an honorable mention. The past two years, however, CHS has taken first, second and third place in the challenge. 

Senior Ava Turner of Middletown, along with seniors Jake Polvino of Tinton Falls and Nate Riehl of Wall, placed third in the competition with an app called Roomiez. It was designed as a platform for students to find their perfect college roommate.

“My group and I came up with this idea because most kids in this generation do not have a Facebook account, yet that is the way that most college roommates are found,” Turner said. “We wanted to create an app that makes it easier and more accessible to find a college roommate that is the perfect match for you.”

Other student winners, such as senior Melody Lin of Freehold, also used the competition as an outlet to address issues close to her heart. She was a member of the first place group that created CollabraCart, inspired by her own experience with a hunger relief organization called Food Not Bombs.

“I’ve seen how many people need food,” Lin said. “Our app is intended to help those in need, specifically for those in need of groceries. It’s a way to build networks of people willing to volunteer time and money.”

Students in Gesin’s class developed their apps throughout most of the first marking period, having to work both in-person and remotely. Lin believes the circumstances of the competition were less than ideal, and that “communication was difficult” for her group. 

Turner agreed that, while she and her group had access to FaceTime and Google Meets, it was difficult to coordinate schedules.

“It was definitely more challenging this year to participate online because most of the time, we all weren’t in the building at once to talk about our code and any problems we were running into,” Turner said.

Even so, the work that the students and Ms. Gesin put into the challenge is an accomplishment to be very proud of.

“Placing in the competition feels amazing,” Turner said. “To be recognized for our hard work and time spent is truly rewarding.”

In the celebratory email chain that flooded CHS inboxes when the winners were announced, teachers congratulated the hard work of the coding students under the guidance of Ms. Gesin.

“[The students] worked hard under very difficult conditions and developed amazing apps,” Gesin said. “I don’t doubt that some of you will use apps they develop someday.”