Rex Ordonez wins congressional app challenge

By Tomas Palmieri

With his app “School-AR,” senior Rex Ordonez has recently been chosen by District Representative Brad Sherman as the winner for the 2021 Congressional App Challenge for California’s 30th district. 

The Congressional App Challenge, otherwise known as the Congressional STEM Academic Competition, is a prestigious competition in which many students across the United States high school system test or develop their knowledge of coding through the design of their own application. The competition can be completed in teams or individually in order to gain the chance to have one’s app displayed in the U.S. Capitol and featured on the House of Representatives website. Students from Granada Hills Charter High School have traditionally done well in this competition, alumni Yashvi Agrawal and Tristan Ha being the last two winners from our district.

Ordonez decided to tackle the challenge solo, as he felt working independently would allow him to be more focused and rigorous with his code.

“Learning about the congressional app challenge from my computer science teacher Ms. Dinh, I decided to enter. Also, I thought it was pretty cool to get awarded by a District Representative and have a chance to go to the U.S. Capitol to present my app,” Ordonez said.

Ordonez’s winning app, “School-AR,” aims to help high school students go through the college application process. The app assists students by providing a friendly and simple interface that helps you organize the colleges to which you wish to apply. It also provides a list of the many scholarships available for these colleges, which can help students quickly and easily find possible scholarships that would best aid them financially. 

Many high school students feel that the college application process is tedious, confusing, and stressful. Ordonez wanted to help alleviate some of the stress that burdens students when applying for colleges. He also created the app with the purpose of aiding the issue of economic unaffordability when it came to colleges. 

“Simply put, many people cannot afford the high prices of college and either end up discouraged, in debt, or at a lesser school. The sleek design of School-AR makes it easier for an individual to search efficiently for scholarships while organizing their college application at the same time,” Ordonez said.

Ordonez has been interested in coding and computer science for as long as he can remember. In his freshman year of high school, he began to take it more seriously and expand upon the skills necessary to create a winning app such as School-AR. To further reinforce these foundational skills, Ordonez decided to work at a job teaching others computer science, while also sharing his passion for the subject.

Although Ordonez already had many of the skills necessary to create an app, he faced many difficult problems and setbacks during the programming process. Specifically, he faced issues within his code that he had to figure out purely with his own problem-solving skills as the answers were not available on Google.

“Sometimes I would be stuck for hours on one error. To solve it, I had to redo a lot of my code. In making the app, I learned how to solve problems easier and faster and I also got more experience in java (a programming language) and XML,” Ordonez said.

Participating in the Congressional App Challenge drove Ordonez to further develop his skills in software development and allowed him to feel more confident in creating complex apps. Therefore, the Congressional App Challenge will help Ordonez with his college degrees in computer science and business administration.

Ordonez’s app will benefit not only his own college career but also many others’.