RePublic Scholar Wins National Challenge

By the year 2020 - in just two years - across the nation there will be an estimated one million unfilled positions in the field of computer science. The medical, military, financial, retail, manufacturing, and arts industries are all in need of qualified computer scientists. Currently, there are 6,266 open computer science jobs in the state of Tennessee, but of the 625 students in Tennessee who graduated with computer science degrees last year, only 18% were female.

Meet Delia, a junior at RePublic High School and creator of shortcuts.

Meet Delia, a junior at RePublic High School and creator of shortcuts.

That’s why you should meet Delia Batdorff. Last month, Delia, a current junior at RePublic High School, won the Congressional App Challenge for Tennessee’s 5th district. Of the 4,100 students who participated across the nation, Delia’s submission was one of two winners in Tennessee, and 190 nationwide. The Congressional App Challenge is a yearly competition aimed at increasing the number of students interested in STEM and computer science. Winning apps are selected by Members of Congress from the student’s district. Delia’s Triangle Calculation app calculates the known values and angles of a triangle based on the user’s input. “The intended audience of this program,” according to Delia,  “is anyone in higher level math needing to calculate the angles of a triangle quickly.” Delia passed the AP Computer Science Principles exam last year as a 10th grader and is interested in pursuing law, psychology, and computer science in college. She will be invited to attend #HouseOfCode, a reception on Capitol Hill where she will get to showcase her app to Members of Congress and the tech community.

Before you check out this video to hear from Delia about how her app works, get to know her (and be inspired!) in the Q&A below.

Why do you think your app caught the attention of the Congressional members who selected your app as a winner?  

Delia: The app solves for the missing values of sides and angles of a right triangle for the user. The user enters the known values for the triangle that she/he has encountered, and the program outputs the values that can be solved for through the use of Trigonometry.  The app is heavily backed mathematically not only in the aspect that coding relies heavily on math, but because the outline for the app took a great deal of math. On that note, the app is functional and educational, which I think caught the attention of the judges.

What is one skill that you think was so critical to your success?

Delia: Problem solving was one of my most used skills while creating the app. For example, at one point, I realized that JavaScript automatically rounded to a whole number with any "Math." function.  This was an issue because JavaScript also outputs trigonometrical functions in radians. I fixed this issue by using the .toFixed() function. I've found that in computer science the ability to problem solve is very important because most of the time the first draft of a code doesn't work.

What was the most challenging part of the App Challenge?

Delia: The most challenging part of the App Challenge was debugging the code. For example, technically, a triangle that can't exist can be solved for. But the answer isn't correct, and a human would be able to realize this. But the code outputted the values even if the angles weren't equal to 180 or the side lengths don't fit into the Pythagorean theorem. Therefore, at the end of the code right before the values are outputted, they are checked. If the angles don't add up to 180, the program will alert that their triangle can't mathematically exist. Also it checks the sides by making sure sides A and B, when entered into the Pythagorean theorem, output the same value as the solved C side. If not, the program alerts the user.

Tell me about one teacher who helped you be successful in this challenge.

Delia: Ms.Butt has helped me tremendously over the past year and a half. Before I first took her class last year, I had little to no interest in Computer Science. Sophomore year, when I entered Ms. Butt's class, my main objective for the class was to score well on the AP test. Throughout the year, I gained more of an interest in Computer Science. Ms. Butt allowed us to express our individuality while learning to code. Even though I'm not her student anymore, she still encourages me to pursue Computer Science. She was the teacher who suggested that I enter the Congressional App Challenge, actually.  

RePublic scholars learn to code beginning in the fifth grade not so that they can win the Congressional App Challenge, but so they are equipped with skills that will have a positive impact on their lives and on the world around them. The RePublic family is thrilled to watch Delia TRAILBLAZE to and through her future endeavors.