BENTONVILLE -- Veera Sai Joshik Unnam, an eighth-grader at Haas Hall Academy Bentonville, won the 2021 Congressional App Challenge for Arkansas' 3rd Congressional District, it was announced Friday.
It was Unnam's second consecutive win in the challenge.
The annual and nationwide coding competition for middle and high school students aims to encourage the nation's youth to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math education and computer science careers, according to a news release from Congressman Steve Womack's office.
"Congratulations to Veera on successfully defending his title," Womack said. "Applying innovation and determination, he focused his coding skills on a new endeavor."
The winning app, AttendGo, is a smart, automated attendance recording app that uses state-of-the-art facial recognition technology to capture attendance while students enter a classroom. The technology detects and compares faces against student images stored in its database, according to the release.
It also provides comprehensive attendance reports. AttendGo supports a variety of platforms, including Android phones and tablets, as well as iOS phones and tablets, according to the release.
"Not only has Veera made history by becoming the first back-to-back winner of this award, he has ensured that a junior high scholar from Haas Hall Academy Bentonville will have won this award in three out of the last four years," said Rod Wittenberg, headmaster at Haas Hall Bentonville. "Veera embodies the passion for learning that is a hallmark of Haas Hall Academy scholars. I could not be more proud of him."
Womack honored Unnam with a certificate and congressional medallion at a ceremony at Haas Hall. Entries were reviewed by a panel of local technology experts and judged on the originality, creativity and quality of the app design. Judges included Jeff Amerine and Phyl Amerine of Startup Junkie. AttendGo will be featured on a digital display in the U.S. Capitol and on the Congressional App Challenge website, according to the release.
"Again this year the students that competed in the Congressional App Challenge from the Third Congressional District exceeded expectations," said Amerine, founder and managing director of Startup Junkie. "The process of picking the winner was exceptionally difficult due to the fantastic mobile applications the students developed and the excellent job they did in presenting their work."
Anish Leekkala, a junior at Bentonville High School, took second place in the competition. Chandra Suda, a sophomore at Bentonville High School, took third place.
This is the seventh year Womack has hosted the Congressional App Challenge in Arkansas' 3rd Congressional District. Arkansas has consistently had every congressional district participate in the competition, making Arkansas one of the top states in terms of challenge participants per capita. The 2022 edition of the competition will open up later this year, according to the release.
"I'm constantly impressed by the enthusiasm for STEM exhibited by 3rd District entrants," Womack said. "The promise exhibited by our next generation shows the future is bright."