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Students’ app earns top spot in 2nd U.S. Congressional District contest

Two students, who developed a mobile app for a class at Burnsville High School, have won first place in the 2nd Congressional District as part of the national Congressional App Challenge (CAC).


Sophomore Fiona Chow and junior Emma Hakanson

Sophomore Fiona Chow and junior Emma Hakanson designed and developed an interactive soundboard app in their mobile computer science principles class. The app, named Birdsong, features photos, sounds, and information about eight local birds.

“The app was flawless,” according to Cindy Drahos, their programming teacher at Burnsville High School.

It was so good that Drahos suggested they enter the app in a competition sponsored in U.S. Congressional districts around the country that inspires high school students to pursue computer science and STEM disciplines.

Fiona and Emma heard recently that they’re the winners in Minnesota’s Second Congressional District and they’ll be meeting with U.S. Congressman John Kline to receive his congratulations and their official certificate.

“The students put a lot of detail and care into developing the app,” said Drahos, who was not surprised that Fiona and Emma won. “They collaborated well, came up with great ideas, and were excited about their project.”

Birdsong is a unique app because it offers several different features. For example, users are able to take a picture using their device's camera then compare that image with images on the app to determine the species of bird. Users can listen to each individual bird's call and view basic information for each species in pop-up windows.

“This app is targeted towards the newer generation of bird watchers, who are likely to have a phone with them, if not a bird field guide,” said Emma. “We hope that this app will enhance the birdwatcher's experience and prompt others to become interested in the world of birds.”

In addition to creating the app, they documented their process on websites and created a YouTube video to show it.

“Creating Birdsong was a large eye-opener to how much ‘behind-the-scenes’ work is required for rather simple applications,” said Fiona. “All steps are essential and cannot be skipped or missed; the importance of each step — each command — is extremely significant because if just one piece is missing, nothing will work. It's the littlest things that matter the most.”

This was the first app creation for both students, but might not be the last as they are both interested in Information Technology (IT). Fiona considers going into software development or engineering while Emma knows she’ll have to utilize technology in her particular area of interest — wildlife research.