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All-female Cheney Tech team wins app-design challenge

January 27, 2020
In The News

MANCHESTER — Three juniors from Howell Cheney Technical School have broken a glass ceiling by becoming the first all-female group to win the 1st District Congressional App Challenge.

Jalah Edison, 16, of Vernon, Rocio Rivera, 16, of East Hartford, and Jazzlin Grisby, 16, also of East Hartford, were recognized by U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, at a ceremony at their school. Larson presented the girls with certificates of special congressional recognition for designing the app “School of Math.”

“If felt incredible and empowering,” Rivera said Friday.

The team also won recognition for being the first juniors to win a challenge predominantly won by seniors in the five years the school competed.

The Congressional App Challenge is a nationwide competition aimed at encouraging middle and high school students to learn how to code by creating their own application. The apps are judged in three categories: concept, design, and skill. Larson received 16 app submissions across his district.

“Jalah, Jazzlin, and Rocio’s app brought a fun, innovative, and creative approach to solving problems faced by many students,” Larson said. “Inspired through their own personal challenges, this group found a way to draw from their experiences and created an app designed to help third- through sixth-grade students with basic pre-algebra topics. Their app, ‘School of Math,’ is a testament to the creativity of this group, but also their desire and passion for helping others.”

Larson also thanked their instructor, Ed Knoeckel, and Principal Carlos Aldave for providing them with the skills and environment they needed to create the app.

“I’m excited to see what’s in store for their futures,” Larson added.  

The girls began working on the app at the end of sophomore year, spending about two weeks each month over the last five months in their Information Technology career pathway course. Any educational subject could have been chosen, but the girls all agreed on math.

Rivera said she has always loved math, but couldn’t say the same for her 8-year-old brother.

“I wanted to find a way to help him because he is my little brother,” Rivera said. “I wanted to be able to make things easier for him or get him more engaged through a game.”

Grisby said she was also inspired to create an app that would help her younger sister with math challenges.

Edison was the main programmer, Rivera was the artist drawing the graphics, and Grisby did much of the research.

While the girls described several challenges in creating the computer app, they all agreed that coding was the biggest challenge.

“School of Math” is a story-based app that follows main character, Yuri, who is not excited about math. Yuri gets sent to math school, where he meets his two best friends, Addie and Maximus. When the character is with Addie, he can do only addition and when the character is in with Maximus, he can do only subtraction. Yuri goes through daily activities, such as dodge ball, where he has to complete math problems to avoid being hit by balls.

While the girls said they gave the challenge their all, they were not expecting to win.

“I didn’t even know we were in the running,” Edison said. “I didn’t actually think we would win because we are juniors.”

Part of winning is receiving an invitation to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on March 24 to demonstrate their app for winners of other congressional districts.

The girls are most excited to see other winning apps and share the project.

“We worked really hard, so we are excited to actually get to show our work,” Edison said.