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BHS student’s app earns top spot in 2nd U.S. Congressional District contest


Congressman Jason Lewis presented Ross with his official “Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition” at Burnsville High School on Feb. 12.
Congressman Jason Lewis presented Ross with his official “Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition” at Burnsville High School on Feb. 12.

Burnsville High School junior Ross Waataja had just three weeks to use coding to create an original mobile app as an assignment in his Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles class taught by Cindy Drahos.

That’s all the time it took for Ross to create an app that has won first place in the 2nd U.S. Congressional District as part of the national Congressional App Challenge (CAC). Congressman Jason Lewis presented Ross with his official “Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition” at Burnsville High School on Feb. 12.

U.S. Congressional districts around the country sponsor the competition to inspire high school students to pursue computer science and other careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). In all, 190 Congressional districts across 42 states involved over 4,900 students in the event this year.

Ross and other winners are invited to showcase their apps to members of Congress and the tech community at #HouseOfCode, a reception in Washington, D.C., in April. Also, students’ apps are eligible to be displayed for one year in the U.S. Capitol Building and on the House.gov website. Each winning student will be awarded $250 in Amazon Web Service credits.

Ross’s inspiration for the app was a love of sports. His app, named Sport Savvy, involves earning points for correctly answering sports trivia questions.

“The hardest part was coming up with the questions,” he said. Issues developed along the way — as they always do with tech projects — but his troubleshooting skills resolved them.

Judges commented that Ross’ app was creative and the use of sports caught their eye. They said his questions were well-written and easy to follow in the app.

“It’s very impressive that Ross was able to create this app in just three weeks and earn this national recognition,” said Drahos, who encouraged her students to enter the competition. “It required a lot of creativity, problem solving and determination.”