Saint Andrew’s proudly recognizes Maizhe (Michael) Yang and Xiangcheng Ji as winners of the 2019 Congressional AppChallenge. The app they created was given as an assignment by Mr. Joey Uriarte in his AP Computer Science A class.
A special awards assembly was held in honor of award-winners Michael and Xiangcheng in the auditorium at the Dr. Albert Cohen Family Center for Entrepreneurial Studies on Friday, January 17, 2020. Later that day, Michael and Xiangcheng’s significant accomplishment was featured on the local news on WPBF/ABC and the evening news on WPTV/NBC. Michael and Xiangcheg created an app in Python that they call Superpass that creates a local database to store facial scans of various users. Upon running, the app attempts to recognize the primary face against the database. The software then interacts with a small embedded device attached against the door that, upon recognizing a saved face in the database, sends an electric signal to a door lock that triggers the door to unlock.
During the event, Rep. Ted Deutch (FL-22) personally congratulated Michael and Xiangcheng on winning the Congressional App Challenge in his district. In addition to applauding the two boys, he also provided context regarding the broader importance of the App Challenge. “The app challenge was started five years ago with the realization that it is really important to encourage young people to focus on computer science and to recognize that these skills can help their community and their schools, and play a positive role in the lives of people throughout the country,” offered Rep. Deutch.
Head of Upper School Dr. Gregg Good also gave remarks that echoed that of the congressman’s. He spoke directly to Michael and Xiangcheng saying, “The work you are doing is authentic, real, and relevant. You guys aren’t just learning about computer science, you are computer scientists.”
The Congressional App Challenge (CAC) is a competition not only for students in Florida’s 22nd District but also for students across the country. Michael and Xiangcheng are among a prestigious group of student winners who have created and exhibited their own original software applications for mobile, tablet, PC, or other devices on the platform of their choice.
Each year, a panel of independent expert judges review the apps submitted from the districts and selected the winners. Judging is based on the quality of the idea, implementation of the idea, and demonstration of programming skills.
Michael, Xiangcheng, and other winners will be featured on the website CongressionalAppChallenge.us and are invited to Washington D.C. to participate in the House of Code Event. This event is a celebratory exhibition similar to a science fair where apps will be displayed and presented to members of congress.
Winners also received $250 in amazon web services credits - a special iCloud-type platform for coders and can use the capabilities of this platform to build apps, websites, blogs, databases, run analytics, and store files.
Saint Andrew’s Middle School and Upper School students learned during the assembly that CAC is open to all high school students in the 22nd Congressional District of Florida, regardless of coding experience or skill level. They were encouraged by Design Technology and Media Arts Department Chair, Ms. Michelle Murray, that students may compete as individuals or in teams of up to four people in future App Challenges and other Design Technology, Engineering, and Robotics competitions.
Ms. Murray also took the unique opportunity of this awards recognition event to speak directly to younger students in the audience, encouraging them to continue in their pursuit of excellence in Computer Science, Design Thinking, Robotics, and Media Arts. “You are the future,” she said. “Computer Science, Robotics, and other Technology courses here at SA will allow you to grow and dig deeper into who you are as individuals and express yourselves through engineering and design,” she said.
Michael and Xiangcheng are not the only SA students to earn top awards in Computer Science this year. A certificate of recognition was given to Zhongxuan (Daniel) Wang ’23, who is in Mrs.Yuliah Milbeck’s AP Computer Science A class. Daniel, Michael, and Xiangcheng compete together on the school’s FTC robotics team.
All SAS Computer Science teachers Mr. Uriarte, Mrs.Milbeck, Mr.Van Voorhis, Mr. Bassil, and Ms. Murray join the entire community as they support and show pride for the accomplishments of these students.