Two students from Greendale High School won the First District Congressional App Challenge.
Second-year Charlie Smitsdorff and Tyler Balota received the award from U.S. Representative Bryan Steil in a surprise ceremony Monday at Greendale High School.
The mission of the Congressional App Challenge is to inspire, include, and innovate efforts around STEM, coding, and computer science education. The CAC website calls it the most prestigious award in student computing.
Each challenge is district specific.
The app developed by the two, called Robauto, is a simulation game about harvesting and producing resources. The goal is for a player to increase their production to gain as many points as possible over a certain number of turns.
The duo, both from Greendale and the two programmers for the school’s robotics team, took inspiration from the idea while playing other simulation games.
“We took different ideas from several different games and kind of brought them together to create our own original idea with our own ideas inside,” said Charlie, 14.
Tyler, 16, said he was happy with the way the game went.
“I never thought I would be able to do all of the things that were inspired to make this game what it is now,” he said.
So were they surprised by their victory?
In short, yes.
For the announcement, Tyler said principal Steve Lodes took the two out of the classroom and told them they were going to meet with other members of the robotics team to discuss something.
“We walk into this room, and there’s all these people and they’re like, ‘Congratulations, you won the best app challenge,’ and we’re like, ‘What? It’s incredible. “
As winners of Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, the couple’s app, selected by a panel of judges, will be on display in the United States Capitol, on house.gov, and on the Congressional App Challenge website.
Both said they wanted to keep refining and improving the game.
Charlie’s parents are Pete and Kelly Smitsdorff. Tyler is the son of Jason and Michelle Balota.
“This is a really exciting award, and I’m very proud of them,” said Michelle Balota.
Kelly Smitsdorff said she was struck by the couple’s self-motivation.
“They started on the robotics team as coders, and we stumbled upon this idea of the app challenge,” she said. “Whenever they have time with robotics, they work on refining their computer programs. We’re just very impressed with them and their motivation to do it.”