March 16, 2016
MANCHESTER — An app created by students at Howell Cheney Technical High School has won a national contest asking students to use coding.
U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, this week recognized Anthony Sebastian of Vernon and Robert Kondratovscz of Tolland for their winning entry in the 2015 Congressional App Challenge.
In the competition, students are asked to apply science, technology, engineering, and math education, or STEM, in creating the code for an app.
This year’s Congressional App Challenge, open to all U.S. high school students, drew over 1,700 participants from 116 districts nationally.
“STEM education is the most important investment that we can make for our future, for our economy, and for our country,” Larson said.
With an interest in robotics and gaming, the two juniors created their game in a month, calling it “Roll-a-Ball.” They got the concept of the game from the community on the website, Sebastian said.
“We used a common engine in PC games known as “Unity” with resources provided by the website such as tutorial forums and script documentation to build our own customized level of the game Roll-a-Ball,” he said in a YouTube tutorial.
As a former history teacher, Larson admired the complex math and science the two used in their winning entry.
“The people who are able to master this technology — and for students that are capable of winning this competition — it’s very impressive,” Larson said.
Teachers said that classes in the information systems technology lab at Cheney are going to study intellectual property rights, with an end goal of obtaining copyright ownership.
Sebastian said they’re developing ideas to provide Roll-a-Ball to gamers through multiple devices.
“We developed scripts of code needed to move the character — applied basic physics such as gravity and collision as well as event triggers that show text when you’ve collected enough balls in the level,” he said.
The app challenge will be an annual event, Larson said, adding that coding is “the language of the future.”
“The best thing we are doing in the state of Connecticut is to make sure we are providing students with the skill sets they need to facilitate economic opportunity throughout a lifetime,” he said.
The two students said they are interested in careers using coding, as Kondratovscz is looking into a career in the game development industry and Sebastian is planning to use coding to build social robots.
Both Sebastian and Kondratovscz agreed the level development was the most enjoyable work they did on the prize-winning app.
Sebastian said they plan to make another game app for fun, using the skills they learned from the national competition.