House Creates Congressional App Challenge

By Renee Dopplick, ACM Director of Public Policy
March 1, 2013

The U.S. House of Representatives created a national academic competition this week for students to showcase their talents in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Consistent with the importance of computer science within STEM, the first annual Congressional Academic Competition will be the Congressional App Challenge. It will challenge students nationwide to develop innovative software programs for mobile devices, tablets, computers, or cloud-computing platforms. The competition will encourage students to go beyond being technology consumers and to innovate as technology producers.

The new Congressional Academic Competition will be modeled after the annual Congressional Art Competition, which has given more than 650,000 students the opportunity to demonstrate their talents, including computer-generated art, since 1982. Winning art entries are showcased on Capitol Hill throughout the year. Similarly, winning entries of the Congressional App Challenge will be showcased with national prominence.

Instrumental in the swift passage of House Resolution 77, which authorizes the creation of the academic competition, were the House leadership, House Administration Committee Chair Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), House Administration Committee Ranking Member Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA), and the Congressional Internet Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), who worked for the past year to build the momentum of widespread bipartisan support.

The 411-3 floor vote in favor of creating the Congressional Academic Competition shows a strong commitment by Congress to inspire American students to acquire the skills necessary for 21st century careers. A strong STEM education will open the door to high-quality employment opportunities for our students and help ensure a bright future for America’s economy.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer science-related jobs now represent more than 1 in every 2 STEM jobs. Moreover, the federal government predicts that U.S. employers will need to fill 9.2 million STEM-related job openings during this decade, with more than half of those in computer-related occupations. Further, occupations requiring a strong background in computer science have low unemployment and high salaries. Computer science college graduates in the class of 2012 entered into jobs with higher average annual salaries than engineers, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Yet, current educational trends suggest that most American students will be ill-prepared and unqualified for those high-tech jobs.

Rep. Miller, the primary sponsor of the resolution, highlighted in her floor remarks that only nine states allow computer science courses to count toward high school students’ core graduation requirements, a finding of the “Running on Empty: The Failure to Teach K-12 Computer Science in the Digital Age” report jointly produced by ACM and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA).

For additional information about the gap between the educational pipeline and in-demand computing jobs, see this August 2012 blog on “Computer Science Jobs and Education” jointly authored by ACM Executive Director and CEO John White and ACM Education Policy Committee Chair Bobby Schnabel. The blog also includes a PowerPoint presentation with information, graphs, and charts that they invite you to use to summarize and make the case for the need for increased computer science education in K-12, community colleges, and universities.

The House Administration Committee still needs to develop guidelines and rules for the competition. We’ll keep you posted on when Congressional members will be accepting submissions.