Boardman High School student wins Congressional App Challenge
By Bruce Walton
Evelyn Stanton, technology teacher and head of the business and technology department at Boardman High School, said she was ecstatic when she learned 11th-grader Pranav Padmanabhan won the second annual Congressional App Challenge for Ohio’s 13th Congressional District.
Padmanabhan said he was surprised that he won and grateful to be recognized.
Though Stanton said all her students are bright, she said Padmanabhan is a different breed of brilliance.
“He just wants to learn; he’s the kind of kid that will learn well above what the teacher assigns him,” she said.
Stanton teaches a 2-year-old app-building class, in which students develop their own computer applications from scratch with a free program called “App Inventor.” This is the first year Stanton decided to enter students in the app challenge.
Many decided to create an app in groups but Padmanabhan was one of the few to ask to work alone. After two months of developing the app, he and six other apps had a working prototype to submit.
More than 2,150 students from 123 districts signed up to participate in the 2016 CAC, including other classmates in the app building class. The challenge is a competition aimed at encouraging U.S. high-school students to learn how to code by creating their own applications.
The challenge highlights the value of computer science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and encourages students to engage in those fields. The apps are judged by an independent panel basing contestants on “the quality of the app’s operations, implementation of the app’s concept, and demonstrated excellence of coding and programming skills.”
Padmanabhan’s app, PolitiViewr, provides voters with nonpartisan political information and knowledge about their local elections and helps to increase voter turnout among eligible voters.
In addition to technology, he is just as passionate about politics. He had the idea for PolitiViewr after volunteering for campaigns when he found people didn’t have much information about local candidates. He said people need to focus more on their local and state officials when voting because “they’re the people you can really talk to if you have a problem locally,” he said.
Winners in each district are featured for one year on the permanent display in the U.S. Capitol Building, and on the House.gov website as well as given a portion of $50,000 in credits. Padmanabhan also will present his app in Washington, D.C., with other winners in April. Each winner is also recognized by their congressional representative, including Padmanabhan, who was honored by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th.
The app only includes information for the 2016 Ohio election season, but he plans to include all 50 states during the midterm election season in 2018. If it would have been available for this election season, Padmanabhan believes it could have made a difference.
“Even if it didn’t help improve turnout, I’m sure more people would make more informed decisions,” he said.
In the future, the student said he’d like to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In the age of information and technology, Padmanabhan said technology needs to be heavily integrated with modern politics and believes his interests will serve him well in the future political landscape.