The Congressional App Challenge Inspires Students to Tackle Issues in their Communities

Every year, the U.S. House of Representatives hosts the district-wide Congressional App Challenge for middle and high school students.
Written by
Blythe Bartel
Published on
March 7, 2023

Every year, the U.S. House of Representatives hosts the district-wide Congressional App Challenge for middle and high school students. The contest asks students to build an app or website that addresses a problem in their own communities. The Congressional App Challenge has been occurring for the past 7 years with more than 40,000 students from all 50 states taking part in the content.  Frances Liang, used Thunkable to build her own app for the Congressional App Challenge and won.  

The Inspiration behind the Smartwater App 

Living in California, Frances Liang knew she wanted to build an app to address water consumption. Liang has seen first-hand how the droughts affect everyone that lives in California.

“My app, the general idea was obviously because of how big of a problem drought is in California. I wanted to do an app that would kind of raise awareness about it. I did an app that gives a general estimate of how much water someone might use a day,” said Liang. 

But she didn’t stop at the typical markers of water consumption — leaving the water on while brushing your teeth or running the faucet while doing dishes — she went further.

Liang shared, “[In my app], you would answer a series of questions. ‘How often do you do a certain task? How often do you do the laundry? Is it an old [washing machine] which has very different water usage amounts than modern kind of machines. What is your meat intake?’ Through these series of questions, I would calculate a rough estimate of how many gallons of water a day a person would use and hopefully provide insight into what aspects of their life are really contributing to their water usage.” 

The inspiration for Liang’s app is showing people their water usage blind spots. Liang decided on the name Smartwater to keep it simple and encourage people to be smart about their water usage.

Liang said,”We don't exactly realize all of the things that we do everyday that slowly build up to a very large amount of water. [I’m] raising awareness about water usage and hopefully inspiring other people to reduce their water usage.”

Why Use Thunkable?

When Liang was looking for an app builder she could use to easily integrate all the data she wanted to collect, she asked her mom, Jessie, to help. Mom and daughter spent time looking at other no code platforms before finding Thunkable.

Jessie shared, “Frances actually learned Scratch and had some basic knowledge of Scratch, Python, JavaScript when she was thinking about picking a platform to build this app. The decision to build it on Thunkable [was] precisely because it's both very powerful — especially with the ability of using Airtable and other cloud elements in it —, but also [offers] UI design and all that. [Thunkable is] also both very powerful and also much easier to build than any other combinations that are available out there for the things that she was trying to build. I remember we definitely went through all of the options.”

Frances Liang added, “I was looking for an app platform that I could use that would have an easy user interface but with also relatively simple code. I found that I could incorporate Thunkable with Airtable [which was] very helpful because I could keep track of different statistics and then implement that into my app. I think, overall, a combination of having a lot of different features that I could use but also the simplicity [made me decide to use Thunkable].”

Building on Thunkable 

Liang was no stranger to basic computer science principles but was new to block coding. She was able to quickly build her app and create the functions and components she needed to incorporate in Smartwater.

“When I first started Thunkable, I was somewhat new to some aspects of block coding. Being able to not only do block coding but also make it very complicated, where I'd have multiple functions and different things keeping track of things, that allowed me to implement a lot of different kinds of aspects that I hadn't been able to before.That was really unique to Thunkable.”

Liang’s Favorite Part of Thunkable

Liang, like many students and educators who use Thunkable, stated she loved that she could build something quickly and see it come to life.

She shared, “It was very powerful to have an idea and actually make a tangible, working app that could actually do things and could be implemented.”

What’s Next for Liang?

If Smartwater is any indication of what Liang can do, we can say with certainty that she has a very bright future ahead of her. After high school, Liang wants to continue her studies in the computer science field and see how computer science can work with other applications.

We at Thunkable want to say how proud we are of Frances Liang and can’t wait to see what she builds next!

Thunkable in the Classroom

Students can bring their app ideas to life while learning crucial coding concepts with Thunkable’s drag and drop app builder. Thunkable is easy to use and students like Liang love seeing their ideas come to life before their eyes.

If you’re an educator, click here to learn more about our educational offerings. 

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Written by
Blythe Bartel

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