San Jose Teens Create Apps that Win Honors from Congress

Five San Jose teens were recognized by Congress for creating dynamic and creative digital applications.

Each year members of congress invite entries from students in their districts, and community and business leaders pick the top entries.

Rep. Jimmy Panetta last week announced the winners in his 19th District’s Congressional App Challenge.

The first place winner was Caitlynn Sue, a student from Leland High School in San Jose, whose app “Oakli” helps people live more environmentally friendly by providing motivation, education, and resources.  The Monterey congressman said Oakli “motivates users through its game-like system that educates users with detailed information, fun facts, and recycling tools.  With a tap of their finger, the user can classify an object and get specific instructions for recycling that object from their county.”

Sue will be invited to the 2023 #HouseofCode Event in Washington D.C. in the Spring of 2024, as well as having the honor of her work being displayed at the U.S. Capitol for the remainder of the 118th Congress and featured on the House of Representatives website,

The goal of the Congressional App Challenge is to promote student innovation, creativity, and engagement in computer science through competition and the creation of a new digital application.

This year, 40 students from across California’s 19th Congressional District participated in the challenge, developing 24 original apps tackling issues ranging from sustainability, education, and social justice.  Student participants included middle and high school students.

“With our daily lives becoming more and more integrated with our digital world, our young people will need to flex their creativity, ingenuity, and technical skills in order to compete in the global economy,” said Panetta in a statement.  “The Congressional App Challenge provides a unique experience for students to test themselves and think outside-the-box to solve real world problems through the power of technology. Caitlynn, along with the other finalists and participants in this year’s Challenge, produced exceptional projects that should make us excited for future innovation in our community.”

Anya Li, Notre Dame High School, runner up.
Photo Rep. Jimmy Panetta.

Anya Li and Andrew Li of Notre Dame High School in San Jose received second place for their app, “Green Habit,” which provides users with eco-friendly reminders throughout the day.

Aarini Naskar and Shriyanka Hiremagalur, also from Notre Dame High School, received third place for their app, “Girlz Elevate,” which provides a trusted platform for young women to connect with each other on topics such as mental health, academic and peer pressures, and self-esteem.

Aarini Naskar and Shriyanka Hiremagalur, also from Notre Dame High School, received third place honors. Photo Rep. Jimmy Panetta.

A panel of leaders and academics in tech from the 19th District volunteered to judge this year’s challenge.  Judges included; Santa Cruz County Office of Education Chief Technology and Innovations Officer Jason Borgan, U.C. Santa Cruz Department Chair of Computational Media Magy Seif El-Sasr, Naval PostGraduate School Assistant Professor of Computer Science Marko Orescanin, Owen Arden, U.C. Santa Cruz Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Owen Arden and Western Growers Vice President of Innovation Walt DuFlock.

Officially launched by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2015, the Congressional App Challenge is a nationwide effort that allows middle and high school students to compete against their peers by creating an application or “app,” for desktop/PC, web, tablet, mobile, or other devices.

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