U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro had a homecoming of sorts Friday morning at Edgewood Independent School District to recognize students who show promise in the STEM field. Castro, who was born on Plainview Drive within the district and whose father taught for more than two decades in Edgewood ISD, returned home to recognize the local winners of a coding competition.

“Who knows where Plainview is?” Castro asked the room of students, gathered because of their common interest in the STEM field.

The San Antonio Democrat congratulated the local champion team of the nationwide Congressional App Challenge — a contest to encourage interest in coding by asking student teams to develop useful apps.

More than 4,000 students across 33 states have participated in the competition since it began in 2015. This year’s winners in Texas’ 20th Congressional District — Jennifer Salazar, Luis Martinez de la Rosa, and Alejandra Duran of Memorial High School — created an app to help San Antonio middle schoolers select a high school that best aligns with their career aspirations.

“These students essentially designed an app with the people of San Antonio in mind,” Castro said.

Martinez de la Rosa, a senior involved in creating the app, said he was surprised that his team was chosen as the winner with so many other groups entering the competition.

“It took us a couple of weeks but was cool to see finished,” he said.

His group decided to create “Choose Your School” after his teacher, Javier Uribe, suggested creating an app related to the district. The app allows students to input career aspirations and identifies what San Antonio-area high school will offer the most compatible future electives for the desired endorsements

Texas law requires eighth-grade students to pick an endorsement, or career focus, prior to entering high school. These endorsements include STEM, business and industry, public service, arts and humanities, and multidisciplinary studies.

Uribe said Edgewood ISD has participated in the competition for the past three years, producing two winners so far. More than 4,100 students participated in in the competition this year nationwide.

As the STEM and Career and Technical Education teacher, Uribe enjoys the challenge the competition presents to his students and the creativity it encourages beyond technical math and science skills.

“I can teach them all the math in the world, but this gives them all the ability to be creative,” Uribe said.

This year, Uribe’s other students created apps that serve a variety of educational purposes. One called Mi Jardin teaches gardening in Spanish, and Constellation Catcher showcases constellations in the context of a game. Crash App provides needed information about steps to take in the event of a car crash, and Simple Steps counts steps on a fitness pedometer. Thirteen students participated from across Edgewood ISD.

Castro addressed 11th and 12th grade students enrolled in STEM programming with some encouragement and advice. The congressman said that the students must forget the “haters” and create a positive support network.

“Surround yourself with people who can lift you up,” Castro said. “The community in Edgewood ISD is cheering and rooting for you right here in San Antonio.”

Avatar photo

Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.