Pleasant 6th grade student wins congressional award for app development

Like her sixth-graders at Pleasant Middle School, Lane Johnson loves video games.

However, unlike many other middle school students, this passion for video games inspired him to learn to code.

Johnson’s initiative, combined with creativity and the hours spent learning the Scratch programming language led him to participate in the Congressional App Challenge 2021, an annual competition encouraging middle and high school students to learn to code through the creation of their own applications, showcasing the value of computing and STEM education.

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A few months later, her hard work paid off.

On December 21, Congressman Troy Balderson (OH-12) announced that grade six student at Pleasant Middle School was the winner of the 2021 Congressional App Challenge for his district.

Students from Ohio’s 12th Congressional District entered the contest. A panel of local experts assessed whether coding and programming knowledge was demonstrated as well as the quality and implementation of the students’ ideas.

What made Johnson’s app stand out?

According to Balderson, the team of judges chose Johnson because of the way he made the game user-friendly and because of his creativity. Gifted not only with technical skills, the sixth-grader took the time to hand-draw the illustrations himself throughout the game.

As one of the youngest entrants in the competition, this creativity and hard work has made Johnson stand out among the group of middle and high school students, all of whom are preparing to succeed in the growing field. technology careers, Balderson explained.

“For us, these are the opportunities available to us. I mean young children have so much potential right now in this area, and we’ve been meeting this application challenge for three years now, ”Balderson said. “Every employer that we go to when we’re on the move in the district is, ‘Do you know someone who can do this? Do you know someone we can hire? So the struggle with these employers is awareness of these kids in training, and I think that’s a great way. “

“Lane is a perfect example: he’s already one step ahead of everyone else. He’s in sixth grade. He’s outperformed the high school kids, so I think there is something to be said about that,” he said. continued the congressman.

The winning app, which Johnson named “Cats vs. Dogs: The RPG”, is an interactive game that players can access through a web browser, choosing the characters’ abilities while going through different settings to try and defeat enemies. .

An RPG, or role-playing game, is a popular style of play in which a player puts themselves in the shoes of a character. This style of play is Johnson’s favorite, and he loves playing on his Nintendo Switch.

In Johnson’s game, players take on the role of cats and dogs, characters he designed and drew himself.

“It just seemed like an interesting topic, like interesting characters to fight,” he said.

The Johnson family first discovered the contest online, and Lane’s father Matthew Johnson began to research the opportunity to see if it would be something his son might be interested in as Lane was already starting to explore the code world by trying out several smaller projects. and read books in his spare time.

“I tried new coding stuff and really enjoyed doing it so I took it a step further and then competed,” Lane said.

Matthew said that opportunities like the App Challenge are great because they make learning STEM skills fun and engaging for kids like his son, whose favorite subject in school is unsurprisingly math.

“I think it’s good for them – it’s something that gets them in easily. They can quickly do something where they can see results, and then it’s not something that is going to frustrate them by not seeing results, so being able to do something and learn from it quickly helps take a beating. little interest in them, “said Matthew Johnson.

Lane Johnson of Pleasant Middle School, winner of the 2021 Congressional App Challenge for OH-12, is shown with his teacher and Tech Squad advisor, Joe Robinson.

Lane said his teachers praised and supported him, celebrating his accomplishment.

“They say a lot of kudos,” he said.

Joe Robinson, a pleasant college professor and Tech Squad advisor, brought Johnson both as a student in his Career Connections class and as a member of the Tech Squad.

“He’s high level when it comes to his ability to code, and just his interest as a sixth grader, it’s pretty remarkable,” said Robinson.

“I know what he did with scratch programming and the like, it’s not easy, and being that kind of creative is really refreshing for any sixth grader.”

While coding is just a hobby for Lane at the moment, he plans to continue competing in competitions such as the Congressional App Challenge in the future. He even already has ideas.

He’s interested in making the sequel to this winning game and could learn a new computer programming language to create the next installment.

“Cats vs. Dogs: The RPG” will be featured on the House of Representatives website, showcasing its winning app, to which Johnson said:

“I feel like it’s really cool that they know my game and can enjoy it,” he said.

Story by: Sophia Veneziano (740) 564 – 5243 | [email protected]

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