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Haas Hall Academy Bentonville student wins app challenge

BENTONVILLE — Veera Sai Joshik Unnam, an eighth-grade student at Haas Hall Academy Bentonville, has won the 2021 Congressional App Challenge for Arkansas’ 3rd congressional district, it was announced Friday.

It was Unnam’s second consecutive victory in the challenge.

The annual, national coding competition for middle and high school students aims to encourage young people across the country to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, math education and computer science, according to a press release from the office of Congressman Steve Womack.

“Congratulations to Veera on successfully defending her title,” Womack said. “Applying innovation and determination, he focused his coding skills on a new venture.”

The winning app, AttendGo, is a smart, automated attendance registration app that uses state-of-the-art facial recognition technology to record attendance when students enter a classroom. The technology detects and compares faces to images of students stored in its database, according to the statement.

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 did Veera make history by becoming the first consecutive winner of this award, but he ensured that a junior high student from Haas Hall Academy Bentonville will win this award in three out of four years,” said Rod Wittenberg, director of Haas Hall Bentonville. “Veera embodies the passion for learning that is the hallmark of Haas Hall Academy scholars. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Womack honored Unnam with a Congressional certificate and medallion in a ceremony at Haas Hall. Entries were reviewed by a panel of local technology experts and judged on originality, creativity and quality of app design. The judges included Startup Junkie’s Jeff Amerine and Phyl Amerine. AttendGo will be featured on a digital screen in the United States Capitol and on the Congressional App Challenge website, according to the release.

“Once again this year, students who participated in the Third Congressional District’s Congressional App Challenge exceeded expectations,” said Jeff Amerine, Founder and CEO of Startup Junkie. “The winner selection process was exceptionally challenging due to the fantastic mobile apps the students developed and the great job they did in showcasing their work.”

Anish Leekkala, a junior from 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 always 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 contest will open later this year, according to the release.

“I am consistently impressed with the enthusiasm for STEM shown by 3rd District participants,” Womack said. “The promise displayed by our next generation shows that the future is bright.”