Ryan Impressed With Trio From STEM HS

App Designers Lauded by Congressman
Posted on 12/10/2020
Image of Congressional App Challenge Winners(Robin Goist for Cleveland.com)

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan on Wednesday honored three Akron high school students who won this year’s Congressional App Challenge for Ohio’s 13th district.

Sophomore Lucas Hacker and juniors Cameron Neuman and Jared Phavixay of the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School, an Akron public school, collaborated remotely to code their “STEM Hub” app, which is an extension for Google Chrome that organizes links and information for high school students and faculty.

Each year, students across the country compete in the contest by designing an app, and each participating congressional selects a winning app that will be displayed at the U.S. Capitol. This is the third year that a team from Akron’s NIHF STEM High School was won, according to the district.

Ryan, a Niles Democrat whose district includes parts of Akron and Summit County, praised the students, the team’s coach Sam Appleby and school principal Dina Popa for encouraging forward-thinking collaborative teamwork, which can be especially difficult when working and learning remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In Northeast Ohio, we obviously talk a lot about sports and football and Friday night lights and all of that, but we think it’s equally important for our kids to be competing in challenges like this,” Ryan said during a virtual news conference. “We’re really thankful that the school stepped up, and Akron Public Schools stepped up… You guys make us so proud.”

Image of Congressional App Challenge Winners

Akron STEM students
Akron's National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School students (left to right) -- Cameron Neuman, Jared Phavixay and Lucas Hacker -- won the 2020 Congressional App Challenge for Ohio's 13th district. (Akron Public Schools)

The students’ Chrome extension had previously existed and allowed students to click on the icon on the top right of their browser and choose from a list of teachers, which would allow them to click on a link that the teacher had programmed, such as the teacher’s website, a YouTube video or helpful online service.

But the app was not well-maintained – teacher pictures were deleted at some point, some teachers who had left the district were still listed and new teachers had not been added.

“The main reason we wanted to update this extension is so the students at our school will be able to easily access important information and reach out to our teachers,” Lucas said. “We had to use JavaScript for this extension, which is a language that none of us were familiar with.”

Jared, who said he has been coding since middle school and hopes to major in computer science in college, took on the role as the team’s main programmer and developed the program in Microsoft Visual Studio.

Now, the extension is much more visually appealing and user-friendly, both for students accessing the information and teachers adding links.

“The program ended up taking a lot longer to create than anticipated, but we pulled through and made a very functional and hopefully practical extension that our school will use,” Lucas said.

Ryan emphasized how proud and impressed he was by the students. When asked about who should run in Ohio’s 11th congressional district, since Rep. Marcia Fudge is reported to be President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to run HUD, Ryan joked that he was ready to endorse Lucas, Jared or Cameron for Congress but otherwise didn’t have a comment on any potential candidates.
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