Java seniors win Congressional App Challenge


Courtesy of Erica Sammarco

Seniors, from left, Liam Marshall of Sea Girt, Erica Sammarco of Colts Neck and Anthony Sasso of Colts Neck won the 2018 Congressional App Challenge with their app, BrainHack.

Brigid McCarthy

A team of three CHS seniors in the Advanced Java programming class won the Congressional App Challenge for New Jersey’s fourth congressional district, beating out 13 other teams.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives host the Congressional App Challenge each year. Students create and develop a mobile app in groups of two to four, competing within their congressional districts. The winners in each district present their apps to Congress in spring of that year.  

Seniors Liam Marshall of Sea Girt, Erica Sammarco of Colts Neck and Anthony Sasso of Colts Neck claimed the win this year with BrainHack, a brain training app.    

Technology teacher Laura Gesin said while the challenge is relatively new, CHS has been successful at it.    

“The challenge has only been around for three years, it only started in 2016,” Gesin said.  “We won in 2016, we got honorable mention in 2017 and then won again this year.”

Through its memory games and other brain-focusing tasks, BrainHack primarily aims to combat the effects of Alzheimer’s. The app consists of a matching game, a word scramble, a fast tap and a puzzle.  

The initial idea for BrainHack came from Marshall and his personal experience with Alzheimer’s in his family.  

“My grandmother had Alzheimer’s when I was younger,” Marshall said. “Sadly she passed away just three years ago, and when she was in her nursing home they were constantly playing games with her, keeping her engaged… so we wanted to make all these brain training games so that you can exercise your mind.”

Sammarco served as the project manager of BrainHack and said the team is still preparing to present their app to Congress.  

“In the spring of 2019 we will be going to #HouseofCode in D.C. where we will be presenting the app to members of Congress,” Sammarco said. “We still have some work to do on the app before then. We plan to finish building the app, hopefully finding a way to incorporate a server and save the app data and make other necessary updates. Once we’ve finished the app we will see where it goes from there.”

Gesin said she’s incredibly proud of the winners, but also of the entire class as well.  

“This is the best Advanced Java class I have ever had,” Gesin said.