Portolapp Wins Congressional App Challenge


Photo Courtesy of Nikhil Jha

Brian Hawkins, Nikhil Jha, Patrick Cui and Matthew Kwon received the Congressional App Challenge award on Nov. 30 for their work on Portolapp, which was built to help students with the no bell system.

Farhad Taraporevala, A&E Editor

Founding developers of Portolapp and juniors Patrick Cui, Brian Hawkins, Nikhil Jha and Matthew Kwon won the Congressional App Challenge for the 45th congressional district of California, awarded by Rep. Mimi Walters to the group on Nov. 30. They were among 30 apps selected as winners in California and around 220 apps nationwide.

“ It will be really interesting to see what people from other congressional districts are like and what kind of stuff they made and their skill and how we measured up compared to people across the country,” Hawkins said.

The Congressional App Challenge started in 2015, with Walters serving as one of two co-chairs. This year, over 5,000 students participated in the regional competitions submitting over 1,700 original student-created apps according to the Congressional App Challenge website. The Portolapp team became the fourth team to win from the 45th district and the first team in IUSD history.

“There is going to be a presentation for all the students who made something and won. They have to present something to Congress, and I’m looking forward to presenting to them because it gives you a chance to talk to people who aren’t from Portola and aren’t from Irvine and show them what you are working on,” Jha said.

The team members will travel to Washington, D.C. in April 2019, when they will present their app to members of Congress at the House of Code reception. Members of Congress will be joined by leaders of the tech community, such as Amazon, Microsoft and Verizon.

“I think it’s an example that we are only limited by our drive and imagination, and these students saw a need, and they didn’t let their own age, their own inexperience, their own possible failings become a barrier for what they wanted to achieve, and I think what they accomplished was something very usable for everyone in the community here at Portola, and when they won the award, they sent a message saying, ‘Look anyone can do this, you just have to have the drive and perseverance to get it done’” principal John Pehrson said.