Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) invited three Montville Township High School students to present their Computer Science coding and app concepts at the 2020 Congressional App Challenge.
Senior Jared Hollfelder and juniors Elizabeth Bazhenov and Sophia Kuznetsova represented MTHS at the virtual presentation for Representative Sherrill in December, 2020.
Hollfelder’s app is called the DigiPlanner. The program is a task management tool for parents and students that is especially helpful during remote and hybrid learning. Hollfelder was inspired to create the app to help his younger brother and his friends limit distractions as they adjust to remote learning. (View his presentation: https://youtu.be/s_iH3ZH5LVo )
“[With virtual learning] I’ve noticed that even the students who usually get their homework done on time are starting to become overwhelmed,” Hollfelder said. “Instead of going home and starting to write our essays, people are watching hours and hours of social media due to the many distractions on our devices.”
Bazhenov created The State Game, a game-based learning app that provides knowledge about all 50 states. (View her presentation: https://youtu.be/AG60BlrFsi4 )
“I wanted to create an app that would be educational and informative while making the learning fun,” Bazhenov said. “I was inspired to create my app because elementary-school children throughout the US learn about state-related information like their state capitals, as well as the state postal codes, nicknames, birds, and flowers. In addition, I understood that knowledge of the US states is an essential part of being an American.”
Kuznetsova created Browser Bake Off, an informative game app that promotes the important skill of understanding how website cookies affect the user. (View her presentation: https://youtu.be/jlUXd-YCYvs )
“As I looked more into cookies I realized just how dangerous they could be,” Kuznetsova said. “Especially to an uninformed or misinformed user.”
Computer Science Teacher, Laura Fuhrmann, of the MTHS Business & Technology Department, encouraged the students to enter the Congressional App Challenge.
As the Computer Club Advisor, Fuhrmann has been promoting and mentoring students for the Congressional App Challenge for over five years.
“The 2020 Challenge officially launched in the spring of the 2019-2020 school year; just when we first locked down,” Fuhrmann said as she described the impact of the COVID-19 on the entry process.
Bazhenov, who is a Co-President of the MTHS Computer Club, was also the model for the poster that was used to promote the Congressional App Challenge that encouraged MTHS Computer Club members to participate in the 2020 contest.
MTHS students worked from March to October, including through the summer, on creating and programming apps for submission to the Challenge.
“Despite the lockdowns, we worked virtually,” explained Fuhrmann. “The high school had four official entries by the end of October.”
The programmers brainstormed with other MTHS Computer Club members. The members also served as beta testers for each other. As a club they provided feedback, and collaborated to assist each other in problem-solving.
At the start of December, 2020, Hollfelder, Bazhenov and Kuznetsova were invited to virtually present their apps to Congresswoman Sherrill.
“This was an amazing experience,” Fuhrmann said. “This was the first year anyone at MTHS was invited to present.”
The Congressional App Challenge is an annual event designed to raise awareness of STEM and Computer Science. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives host district-wide Congressional App Challenges for middle school and high school students to encourage them to learn to code and inspire them to pursue careers in computer science.
“This was a great opportunity,” Kuznetsova said. “How many people can say they've presented something they've made to a Congresswoman?"
Bazhenov agreed. “I was honored that the Congresswoman took some time to meet and talk with me and other students who had created apps.”
“Our district congresswoman Mikie Sherrill congratulated me on my work and was proud of my dedication and final product,” Hollfelder explained. “It was a very cool experience, and I am glad Mrs. Fuhrmann enabled me to participate in this challenge.”
In January, 2021, Hollfelder, Bazhenov, and Kuznetsova each received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, dated December 16, 2020, and signed by Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill.
View these outstanding presentations by clicking on the images below: