April 16, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Samohi Project Lead the Way Students Place Second in Congressional App Challenge

Brandon Kirbyson and Tobin Palmer awarded for developing the app Noteworthy, a Google Chrome extension that allows users to note and markup websites

Santa Monica High School (Samohi) Project Lead the Way (PLTW) freshmen, Brandon Kirbyson and Tobin Palmer, recently placed second in the 2022 Congressional App Challenge for Congressman Ted W. Lieu’s (D-Los Angeles County) congressional district. 

“As a recovering Computer Science major, I am inspired by all these students who have committed themselves to creating innovative apps that address communication, cybersecurity, housing, medical diagnoses and treatment, food insecurity, and more,” Congressman Lieu said. “Our office sees growth every year in the number of apps submitted. I am proud to represent a district that is the home to Silicon Beach, as well as Santa Monica College, LA Air Force Base, and UCLA, all of which emphasize the importance of STEM innovation and education.”

Kirbyson and Palmer competed against students from 14 other high schools in California’s 33rd Congressional District.

“Finishing in such a high position for one of the more competitive districts in California was amazing to me especially given that nearly all our competitors were seniors,” Kirbyson said. 

The two met while they were at John Adams Middle School and bonded over their common interest in coding, developed the app Noteworthy, a Google Chrome extension that allows users to note and markup websites and to store the annotations for future retrieval.

“Because of the major shift to digital education during the pandemic, we wanted an app that could add notes directly to websites,” Kirbyson said. “When we couldn’t find an existing app that did everything we wanted, we decided to make our own.” 

Kirbyson and Palmer began developing Noteworthy in June 2022, working together throughout the summer to develop the app’s various functions. They delved deeper into multiple coding languages to ensure that Noteworthy would work with newer and older browsers and would not conflict with pre-existing content on websites. 

“The biggest challenge that we faced when designing this app was redoing it,” said Palmer. “As we learned more about coding, we realized there were more efficient ways to structure the code that would make the program run more smoothly, so we wound up re-coding the entire thing in the last month.” 

Even after recreating the app, Kirbyson and Palmer managed to make the November 1 deadline and receive a high placement.

“Participating in the Congressional App Challenge gave me the chance to develop a fully functional application for the first time,” said Palmer. “I would like to participate again or in another contest.” As for Noteworthy, Kirybson and Palmer are actively developing “Noteworthy 2.0.” 

The Congressional App Challenge was started in 2013 with the mission of inspiring, including and innovating efforts around science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), coding and computer science education amongst middle and high school students. Each challenge is district specific. 

The winners from each congressional district will be recognized by the respective House of Representatives member and each winning app may be put on display in the U.S. Capitol Building for one year.

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