Coding the Future: Reid Sotkin Wins 2020 Congressional App Challenge

By: Hayden Alexander

Our world is changing one technological advancement at a time. A hundred years ago the notion of being able to hold a supercomputer in our pockets or have all the information we could possibly want at the push of a button was unimaginable. Today, technology is moving faster than ever and the House of Representatives is asking students to rise up and meet the challenge through their Congressional App Challenge. 

Congressional App Challenge logo and motto: “Connecting today’s Congress with tomorrow’s coders.”Photo Credit: https://www.congressionalappchallenge.us/

The competition aims to showcase how STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is relevant to the United States Congress and to students across America. According to congressionalappchallenge.us the mention of STEM has increased by 2000% within Congress.  Another goal of the challenge is to engage a diverse population of students from all over America. 

Over 300 congressional districts participate in the App Challenge, and over 14,000 students compete in this annual competition. Alas, there could only be one winner for the First Congressional District of Oklahoma, and Junior Reid Sotkin stole the show with his app, “Calculating the Future”. 

Junior Reid Sotkin after winning the Congressional App Challenge for the 1st Congressional District of Oklahoma.

“The purpose of the app is to teach young Americans how to invest,” says Sotkin.

Sotkin’s app, aimed at young people, employs techniques that show how investing a little, consistently, over time can pay off. 

“Basically, if you invest 100 dollars a month or 500 dollars a month most people don’t realize that by the time you retire, because of compound interest, you could have 1 million dollars,” Sotkin explains. 

The app has tools such as a compound interest calculator, that suggest what stocks to invest in based on your salary and bills. 

“I just wanted to put it in a way people could visualize it,” says Sotkin.

The Congressional App Challenge put Sotkin’s skills to the test. The young coder had never coded an app before. On top of that, he had to master two new coding languages, Python for mathematics and  KV or “kivy” for the framework of the app. 

“I just knew what I wanted to do and I just learned how to do it,” says Sotkin. “A lot of extra work, but it was definitely worth it.”

Sotkin received the call letting him know of his victory from Oklahoma’s First Congressional District Representative Kevin Hern.

“I didn’t expect it,” says Sotkin. “ It was just so exciting all the work paid off.”

Sotkin has been taking coding classes at JHS since his freshman year and has attended several engineering camps. 

“I’m always building stuff and coding,” says Sotkin. “I think the biggest way to make a difference in the world would be through engineering and programming since that’s the way the world’s going.”

Sotkin believes that apps can help him and others make a difference in the world from educational apps to life-saving medical apps. 

“With apps, you make all kinds of differences,” says Sotkin. “All of it possible on a laptop and that is what draws me to development.” 

Speaking of development, Sotkin is currently working on developing apps for a couple of businesses including the local Jenks business, Strong Family Financial. The young entrepreneur is also working on a couple of personal projects.

“My personal project, which won’t come out for like a year/year and a half is an app that helps people stay safe and prevent sex trafficking,” says Sotkin.

Another app Sotkin is working on is called “Vise”, and will help prospective college students find communities and answers to their many questions.

“It will give students the power to build communities and bring the world closer together,” says Sotkin. “Students will be able to ask questions, talk with college counselors, find the college that fits them best, explore majors, find the college of their dreams, and so much more.” 

Already well on his way, Reid plans on channeling his coding skills into opening his own software company in the future.  

“I’m not sure what type of software yet maybe developing apps, making automatons, or robots,” explains Sotkin. “I just want some type of software company that makes a difference.”

Sotkin will be virtually attending the challenge’s annual #HouseOfCode this spring. The national science fair gives the winning students an opportunity to present their apps to Representatives and Congressmen alike.

“I will be attending it virtua[ly] this year,” says Sotkin. “Hopefully I can win again and go next year.”

The competition may be over but Reid has a lot of new projects and ideas lined up and ready. From an app that helps victims of sex trafficking, to working on new apps for multiple businesses, and his constant drive to change the world for the better. Reid Sotkin is taking on the future one very high tech step at a time. 

Students interested in the Congressional App Challenge should check out their website: https://www.congressionalappchallenge.us/

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