Andrew Lemons had played around with writing apps, but had never successfully produced one. That all changed when the LaFayette High School 10th-grader was encouraged by his social studies teacher, Matt Logan, and his guidance counselor, Gwen Gregory, to enter the Congressional App Challenge — a contest to encourage student interest in science, technology, engineering and math.
Students enter the contest within the congressional district in which they live. There is a winner for each district that has entries.
Lemons liked the idea. “I like creating things in general,” he says.
Lemons says if he’s not working on his computer and coding or playing drums in his school band or helping with the design and remodeling of buildings through the Architecture, Construction and Engineering Club at school, he’s often building things out of bricks and PVC pipe at home.
So the question was not would Lemons enter the contest but what would be the function of his app?
Enter Izzy. Izzy is an Australian Shepherd who became part of the Lemons family around a year ago. “I never saw myself as a dog person before we got Izzy,” says Lemons, “but I found out I am.”
While visiting an aunt with his family, including Izzy, in Virginia, Lemons learned that in some places, in order for a dog to play in a dog park, its owner must present proof of vaccinations. The Lemons family had brought Izzy’s paperwork with them, but, thought Lemons, wouldn’t it be better if all that were on an app that could be easily presented or shared?
Back home, Lemons went to work on his new app idea: Animal Record Keeper, aka, ARK. “It took a few months,” he says. “I put about 50 or 60 hours into it. I would work on it for an hour, take Izzy for a walk and come back and work on it some more. There were times I realized it wasn’t right and I had to scrap it and start over.”
Lemons says starting over could be frustrating but worthwhile. “It was always better when I built it back because I had learned from my mistakes. I wanted it to be amazing and that takes being willing to keep improving.”
When he wasn’t working on the app, Lemons says he was often thinking about it and even dreamed about it.
Lemons made a video presentation for his app and submitted it. ARK, says Lemons, can be used to keep an animal’s medical records and other information. Users can instruct the app to send them reminders when it’s time for more flea medicine or time for a vet visit, they can include pictures of their pet and they can share information with whomever they wish, including dog parks.
In his video, Lemons demonstrated the ease of adding an animal by making a file for his cat Babe. He says it’s not only pets the app could prove useful for. “There are kids at school in the FFA program who might find it useful for the cows, sheep and pigs they keep. It’s something farmers might find useful.”
On Dec. 14, Rep. Tom Graves announced in his email update to constituents that Andrew Lemons had won the App Challenge for the 14th Congressional District of Georgia.
“As a pet owner and animal lover,” Graves wrote, “I agree with Andrew that an app like ARK would certainly come in handy. I was so impressed with this year’s app submissions. Northwest Georgia is full of so many talented students, and I encourage them to start developing ideas for next year’s challenge.”
Prizes for winners include the option of putting their apps on display in the U.S. Capitol building for a year and featuring them on the House of Representatives web site, an invitation to attend the #HouseofCode Capitol Hill Reception in Washington, D.C., and $250 in Amazon Web Services credits. Lemons says he and his family will be attending #HouseofCode.
“It was great to learn new skills,” says Lemons, “and have the chance to help people and benefit lives.” Eventually, he says, he would like to have his in the Apple App store.
Lemons, who plans to one day become a computer programmer or an industrial interface designer, says he would encourage other young people to “go for it” when it comes to their interests. “If you have a goal and you want to achieve something, tinker with it and learn from mistakes. Keep trying until you succeed.”
To see Andrew Lemons’ ARK presentation video, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p5L5Gd0tGQ&feature=youtu.be
To learn more about the Congressional App Challenge, visit www.congressionalappchallenge.us