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The 2017 Congressional App Challenge is live!

2017 Congressional App Challenge! Are you a K through 12 student with an app idea? Register for the 2017 App Challenge, July 26 through November 1.

The 2017 Congressional App Challenge is live!

The App Challenge is an annual congressional initiative to encourage student engagement in coding and computer science through local events hosted by the Members of Congress.

Between now and November 1, high school students from across the country will be busy creating an app for mobile, tablet or computer devices.

This year, there are over 165 Members of Congress signed up to participate in the launch! Check to see if your district is participating. If not, we encourage you to connect with your Representative to make sure that s/he does sign up. The App Challenge website also has a library letter template you can use to send to your Member of Congress.

How does it work?
Students work solo and in teams to turn a personal interest or social issue into an app that solves a problem or adds another layer to something they are interested in. In past years students developed apps that help reduce the impact of disease in developing countries; guide you through choosing the best soccer cleats online; allow chemistry students to learn the history of atoms in a virtual reality; translate American sign language into other languages; monitor allergies by scanning product barcodes; and to organize your recipe collection.

Every participating district has a winner who is recognized by their Member of Congress and many come to Washington to exhibit their winning app and meet with their Member during the #HouseofCode celebration. The Challenge is sponsored by the Internet Education Foundation and supported by ALA as part of our Libraries Ready to Code (RtC) initiative.

Why code at the library?
Through the Libraries Ready to Code work, we have heard from libraries all over the country and have heard about the variety of ways libraries facilitate coding programs for youth. The variety of programs is as varied as the libraries and the communities they serve. What we have learned (that our current RtC Phase III grant program is now promoting!) is library coding programs should incorporate basic RtC concepts. The App Challenge is a perfect way to bring coding into your library and expose kids to the opportunities coding can open up.

Whether you already have coding programs at your library or not, you can get teens excited about the App Challenge. In addition to building an app, the Challenge introduces teens to the idea of connecting with their elected officials through a fun and creative way. Participating in the Challenge can pave the way for future civic engagement on issues that matter to the teens you work with. At last year’s #HouseofCode event, three young men had designed a climate change strategy game, Code Carbon and were very excited to talk to their Representative about where she stands on climate change.

There are lots of ways libraries can encourage students to participate in the Challenge! Host an App Challenge event, an “app-a-thon,” a game night for teens to work on their apps, or start an app building club. Students wishing to participate work through their Member of Congress who must sign up.

Again, check to see if your district is participating and connect with your Representative to make sure that s/he does sign up.

If you do participate we want to hear about it! Share using the App Challenge hashtag #CAC17 and ALA’s hashtag #readytocode. The App Challenge runs through November 1.

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Marijke Visser

Marijke Visser is the associate director and senior policy advocate at the American Library Association’s Washington Office. She is involved in all stages of Libraries Ready to Code, E-rate, and Connect Home projects. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Peace and Global Studies/Sociology and Anthropology from Earlham College in Indiana. Before joining the ALA in 2009, Marijke earned her master’s in Library and Information Science from Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis.

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