John Burroughs High School Student Named 2022 Congressional App Challenge Winner By Rep. Adam Schiff   

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Liam Peak shows off his award-winning app, Addvent. (photo courtesy of Andy Peak)

John Burroughs High School senior Liam Peak has been announced by Rep. Adam Schiff as the first place winner of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge in the 28th Congressional District. 

Each year since 2014, the Congressional App Challenge has been hosted by the U.S. House of Representatives members with the goal of motivating students to go after jobs in the computer science field and become more familiar with coding. Middle school and high school students are eligible to submit their original apps for consideration in their congressional district. Using a Congressional App Challenge rubric, astrophysicist Dr. Anjali Tripathi served as the 2022 judge for the 28th District.

In a press release issued by Schiff’s office on Jan. 12, Liam was named the contest winner. Liam’s app, Addvent, presents two categories of lists: “personal” and “community.” Users can add goals or plans, which are labeled as “events,” to either list, with the objective being to make a positive impact on their lives or their community. After a user has finished an event, they can either cross it off or remove it from their list. The app also includes features such as a calendar for event organization, as well as a progress page that informs users on their achievements, number of events completed, and event streaks. The idea for the program came to Liam as he drew inspiration from his own experience of not getting enough use out of his physical school planner. 

“For school, I used to keep a planner with me to make a schedule throughout the day, but I would rarely use it, and I would always be on my computer all day,” Liam said. “So I thought it would be great and a challenge for me to create an app where I can make schedules and appointments online.”

During the summer of 2022, Liam dedicated his time to studying the programming languages JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. Whereas he had previous experience working with the app-building program Thunkable, being able to utilize these languages was a vital component in designing Addvent, which he completed using the code editor Visual Studio Code. When Liam learned he had been selected for the first place position, he says he was surprised but grateful that his devotion to the endeavor proved to be worthwhile. 

“It was kind of a shock because I’ve seen other projects submitted, and I thought they were really good, and I didn’t know if mine could make it,” Liam said. “But I also believe that all my hard work should pay off and that I might have a chance of winning first, second or third place.”

The champions of the challenge may be chosen to be have their apps shown in the U.S. Capitol Building and presented on House.gov, the House of Representatives’ website. These students were also invited to demonstrate the apps for representatives at the #HouseofCode celebration, which took place in Washington, D.C., last month. In his press release, Schiff praised the victors of the challenge for their noteworthy accomplishments.

“The winners of this year’s competition have once again demonstrated a tremendous ability to channel their unique challenges into inspiration, by creating apps that will help them and their peers seize their potential inside and outside the classroom,” Schiff said. “I’m tremendously proud of every participant in this year’s challenge, and cannot wait to see where their talents take them.”

Liam’s father, Andy Peak, witnessed his son continuously persevere to build Addvent and describes Liam as “a very hard worker.” Additionally, Andy says that discovering Liam had received this honor after months of commitment has made him an “incredibly happy” parent.

“I just think this is fantastic,” Andy said of his son’s win. “Liam has always been a very self-motivated scholar, and I’m just so happy for him, to see him put this effort in and actually be recognized. He’s doing well at school, but  … projects [are] definitely a way to showcase your abilities and how they can work in the real world outside of just the educational side of things.”

Liam hopes to attend a University of California school following graduating from JBHS, preferably UC Berkeley or UC Irvine, where he plans on studying computer science. Once he concludes his college education, the prize-winning teen foresees further expanding his professional skill set and forging a successful computer science career.

“From there I’ll just be going deeper into the field of computer science and learning new techniques and programming skills that I could hopefully use for a job,” Liam said.