Western Student Reflects on Winning App Development Award

Senior engineer Nolan Burkhart showed his coding prowess


Virginia Representative Bob Good present Western Student Nolan Burkhart with coding award| PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CONGRESSIONAL APP CHALLENGE

Ike Noth, Staff Writer

Nolan Burkhart, a WAHS 17 year old senior and app engineering extraordinaire, won the 2021 Congressional App Challenge award for Virginia’s 5th district; he received the award from representative Bob Good. The Congressional App Challenge is a competition, which recognizes the best student app in each district of those representatives that choose to participate, is hosted by the Federal House Representatives. Representatives that choose to participate receive app submissions to review. The challenge encourages coders to pursue further education and careers in coding, it provides an avenue for people to test their coding skills and learn from their previous attempts. Burkhart, along with the winners from other districts, showcased their apps at the Capitol building during the annual House of Code Festival. The program is open to anybody in high school, so keep an eye out for July 2023.

Burkhart’s winning app, SchoolPal, helps students to find as an independent study, Burkhart created his winning app SchoolPal, an app designed to help students find their way around a new school. As an example, he made his own map of Western, which would use Burkhart’s algorithm to navigate from room to room via the shortest possible route. The app could also be connected to a person’s PowerSchool, letting them see their grades, teachers, and schedule. It’s practically an improved PowerSchool.
SchoolPal is currently unavailable for download because it is not updated for the most current version of IOS. Although it’s not currently available, the fact that he was able to create an app and have it released for a time shows his incredible work ethic. His independent study advisor Zoe Padron noted his impressive work ethic, and accomplishments with the app. “Nolan is an incredibly hard worker.”

Burkhart had submitted an app in 2020, getting second, from the office of Denver Riggleman. His older app was called YouthVote, it helped inform young and new coming voters of politics. It helped him lay the groundwork for his next app. In the 2021 competition he beat out around 50 other students from the district with his new app, and new programming skills taken from his past experience.

In 2021, when students presented their apps virtually to Congress, Burkhart got an Acknowledgement of Award of Excellence which, in his words, basically means “Nolan Burkhart is great at programming.” Although it wasn’t a scholarship, it still helped Burkhart get accepted into Cornell University for computer science. At Cornell he wants to major in computer science and minor in business, as he hopes to make a job out of his interest in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
“I just really want to help out my community,” said Burkhart. He made the app both as a way to get his name out there and to be of use to his school community. “I felt great after I got the award and extremely accomplished, it felt amazing to learn that I had produced the best app in the district,” he said.