App Challenge Winners Hail From LCF

First published in the Dec. 30 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff has announced two local students as the winners of the 2021 Congressional App Challenge for their work in promoting sustainability, community service and mental health.
Established by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013 to promote STEM and computer-based skills, the Congressional App Challenge is open to all middle and high school students who live in or attend school in California’s 28th Congressional District, which includes La Cañada Flintridge, Burbank and Glendale.
“California’s 28th District is home to some of the brightest young minds in the country – and the submissions we received for this year’s Congressional App Challenge prove it,” said Schiff, a Democrat.
“The past two years have been exceptionally difficult for middle and high school students. Yet these incredible young people were able to turn that hardship into inspiration, developing apps that will make the world around them a better place — a talent more necessary today than ever before,” he added.
“I’m tremendously proud of every participant in this year’s challenge, and it is my hope that they will continue to develop and hone their computer science skills. They will be highly coveted future talent for many of our most advanced tech companies.”
La Cañada High School’s Vivien Chen won first place for her app, “100,” which encourages individuals to protect the environment and live more sustainably.
Chen, an LCF resident, is a junior who is passionate about coding. She is currently learning about web development and data science.
Chen described the purpose of her app as a tool to “encourage people that are passionate about saving our environment to live sustainably by providing them with the resources and ideas they need to do so.”
She describes 100 as a “to-do app and journaling app combined into one. There are 100 pre-existing ideas for users to complete … and a journaling section to record progress or notes.”
Imogen Lee, who is also a junior at LCHS, took second place for her app, “Mathscovery,” which helps students in need of extra math tutoring and academic support.
Describing her app, Lee said Mathscovery “is a tutoring platform that uses artificial intelligence, IBM Watson Natural Language Processing and Understanding, and machine learning to solve and explain elementary-grade level addition word problems. Although there are other available platforms that can solve formula-based problems (e.g., 5 + x = 12), surprisingly, there are no applications that can solve word-based math problems. …
“Although my application is in beta version and can only solve addition word problems, solutions like Mathscovery can help bridge the learning gap in our educational systems by giving extra on-demand tutoring,” Lee added.
Lee lives in LCF with her parents, her younger sister and a miniature schnauzer named Oscar. When she’s not developing AI and machine learning models, she enjoys photography and videography.
Anjali Tripathi, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, served as this year’s judge and helped Schiff present the awards during a ceremony in December.