MIHS junior codes her way to first in Congressional App Challenge

District 9 winner Vadlamannati creates EduLang app for low-resource language speakers.

Coming off his own triumph in the recent general election, United States Rep. Adam Smith crowned another Congressional District 9 victor: Mercer Island High School (MIHS) junior and app creator Subhadra Vadlamannati.

The Islander won the prestigious Congressional App Challenge with her multilingual library app, EduLang, which utilizes interactive books and storytelling to guide non-English speaking students in grades K-5 to begin grasping the English language. Through the learning process, the low-resource language speakers can also preserve their native language proficiency.

Smith noted in a press release that he’s an immense supporter of STEM and computer science education and welcomed middle and high school students who thrive in the coding realm to submit their apps into the contest.

“Computer science and coding offers new and innovative ways to solve challenges and support vulnerable groups — Subhadra’s work is an excellent example of this exciting possibility,” said Smith, adding that all of the participants’ coding skills can make an impact in the STEM world now and down the line.

While volunteering with refugee organizations, Vadlamannati saw the need for an app after noticing that several kids and families didn’t have access to multilingual teachers or accurate translation technologies focused on their native language.

“I therefore decided to research this topic and build an app that could provide children and their families with multilingual content that would accelerate their language learning,” she said.

To bring the app to life and affix all its vital elements, the conscientious coder absorbed technologies such as react-native, machine learning and computational linguistics. Patience was paramount for the student as she snapped pieces of the publishing puzzle into place into Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Vadlamannati said she’s honored to win the Congressional App Challenge for District 9 and thanked the MIHS community for imparting the education and support she needed to delve into the initiative.

“I hope the award also helps drive awareness to the needs of people who speak low-resource languages and increases investment in creating multilingual content that helps them,” she added.

MIHS acting principal Nick Wold noted about Vadlamannati’s inspiring work: “As a junior, Subha is already a leader in the STEM field but by developing this app, Subha is helping bridge the language gap for students with low resources.”

For more information on Vadlamannati’s app, visit https://youtu.be/pY1MB9yEJaM.

According to the Congressional App Challenge website, winning apps from all U.S. congressional districts are eligible to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building and featured on the House of Representatives’ website; winning students are invited to the #HouseofCode Capitol Hill Reception in Washington, D.C.; and winners may receive prizes.