Andrew To, an 8th grade student at White Sands Middle School, recently won the 2021 New Mexico Congressional App Contest for New Mexico's 2nd congressional district.
Andrew To, an 8th grade student at White Sands Middle School, recently won the 2021 New Mexico Congressional App Contest for New Mexico's 2nd congressional district. (Photo Credit: Miriam Rodriguez ) VIEW ORIGINAL

Andrew To, an 8th grade student at White Sands Middle School, recently won the 2021 New Mexico Congressional App Contest for New Mexico's 2nd congressional district.

He received a letter from U.S. representative for New Mexico's 2nd congressional district Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, announcing him as the winner for his app titled New Mexico for Dummies.

“The App I created is called New Mexico for Dummies,” To said. “This App helps people learn about New Mexico in a fun way. The people who can use it are people from age three and above. You can currently download this app on the Google Play Store.”

The New Mexico Congressional App Contest for District 2 is just a section of the app contest. The Congressional App Contest is a nationwide contest which is held in each state and their respected districts.

According to the website, the Congressional App Challenge is an official initiative of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Members of Congress host contests in their districts for middle school and high school students, encouraging them to learn to code and inspiring them to pursue careers in computer science.

Each participating Member of Congress selects a winning app from their district, and each winning team is invited to showcase their winning app to Congress during their annual #HouseOfCode festival. The program is a public-private partnership made possible through funding from Omidyar Network, AWS, theCoderSchool, Facebook, Replit, Accenture, and others.

To said he wasn’t sure he was going to win the Congressional App Contest, because he felt he was not a good programmer.

“I have a lot to learn. I was very surprised and happy that I was able to win.”

To said he found out about the contest from his dad, Youngchan Andrew To, an employee here at White Sands Missile Range, who learned about the contest from his co-worker, whose daughter won the 2017 New Mexico Congressional App Contest for District 2.

“At first, I was just interested in the challenge of creating an app, and combined with the fact that I only got into coding when COVID-19 occurred, it seemed like a no-brainer for me to participate. But as I started to become more involved with my work as a coder, I realized that I also wanted to express myself in a way that would support my community,” To said. “So, I brainstormed ideas that could not only help me grow as a coder but also be a sort of tribute to the strength that New Mexico has shown throughout this global pandemic. I eventually decided to make an app about my state so that more people could understand and appreciate New Mexico, just like I do.”

To said that at first he was not first interested in programming.

“Over the pandemic, I self-learned how to program by YouTube and became more interested in programming. I then started to become interested in app development. I became interested in creating apps because I wanted to build apps that I can enjoy and have other people enjoy as well. Because of this passion, I’m still learning how to make apps as well as I am teaching people how to make apps on YouTube. I find myself very helpful when I teach others how to program. The reason I created a YouTube channel was to show how I solved the problems I faced while programming as well as being able to share the small knowledge that I have learned.”

His educational plans for the future are to go to a good high school in Las Cruces such as Arrowhead.

“This is because I want to challenge myself and be able to become a better student. I then want to apply to schools like MIT, Stanford, or Yale, so I can become a good Computer Programmer. One day with the degree and skills that I have obtained I hope I will be able to help my community.”

The 2022 Congressional App Challenge will launch in June of 2022, and eligible students can pre-register for the competition now at https://www.congressionalappchallenge.us/