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Quigley Announces Fifth District Winner of the Congressional App Challenge

Dec 18, 2017
Press Release
Ava Hollis Created an App to Improve Access to Nearby Medical Supplies & Services

CHICAGO – This weekend, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) announced Ava Hollis, a freshman at York High School, as the winner of the Congressional App Challenge for Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District. Ava’s app, React, aims to help connect people to nearby EpiPens, inhalers, and other medical supplies and services when first aid can be administered before paramedics are able to respond.

“Ava’s app is the perfect example of how young Americans are embracing technology and STEM education to solve real world problems,” said Rep. Quigley. “While our emergency responders are committed to arriving on the scene as quickly as possible, there are times when first aid can and should be administered before they arrive. React is a life-saving tool that provides residents with the opportunity to help one another quickly in times of medical emergencies. I’m very proud of Ava’s creativity and innovation and pleased that she is representing Illinois’ Fifth District in the Congressional App Challenge.”

“I have always been passionate about helping people, and I felt that something needed to be created to help after many sad emergency situations have occurred in both my town and across the nation,” said Ava Hollis. “Out of every tragedy comes an opportunity for change, and I had an idea to create something that could connect people in need to nearby first aid that could arrive in a matter of minutes. I felt that technology could best represent my idea, so I set off to code simple elements (GPS, user group chat) that would allow people to quickly find their location and send for local help. My final product was an app that can be used in a variety of settings to provide people with easy access to EpiPens, inhalers, and other medical supplies. I appreciate the opportunities the Congressional App Challenge has provided me with, and I would like to continue making more first aid/medical apps.”

While Ava is still three years away from graduating high school, she plans channel her passion for helping people towards a career in neurosurgery or plastic surgery.

The Congressional App Challenge is designed to engage student creativity and encourage their participation in STEM education fields. High school students from across Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District were encouraged to create and exhibit their software applications for mobile, tablet, or computer devices on a platform of their choice. The Challenge is intended to highlight the value of computer science and STEM education and encourage students to engage in these fields. By encouraging and recognizing our nation’s young programming talent, Congress hopes to shine a light on the growing importance of these skills.

Ava came up with the idea for her app, React, after a young girl in her community died of an allergic reaction. The ambulance taking her to the hospital did not have an EpiPen and she passed away before reaching the hospital. The app allows users to get their precise location and send a text to other users with their medical need. This would increase the likelihood of first aid being administered if emergency services are delayed. Designed to assist citizens of her hometown, Elmhurst, Ava hopes her app could expand to provide services to people who are outdoors and away from home.

Rep. Quigley with 2017 winner, Ava Hollis.

One of the judges who reviewed this year’s submissions, Abby Ross, is the co-founder of education technology company ThinkCerca. “The opportunity for students to participate in app development for the city is a true demonstration of civic engagement in the 21st Century,” said Abby Ross. “Upon judging the applications, I was astounded and inspired by the creativity of innovation and the demonstrated understanding of issues that impact our community. Providing STEM-centered opportunities like this challenge for our students is a critical way for our city to develop future talent of innovators.”

The second judge, Lauren Haynes, is the Associate Director of the Center for Data Science & Public Policy at the University of Chicago. "It's very exciting to see students getting involved in technology to address problems they see in the community - to have seen a specific need, taken a thoughtful approach as to how to solve the problem, and then built the skills and the tools to address that problem,” said Lauren Haynes.

This year’s runner up was a submission by Anton Outkine and Christian Sparks of Northside College Prep School. Their app, myCTA, provides an easy way to view the CTA’s schedule, bus stops, and train stops. Their goal is to reach commuters and enable them to better plan their trips and make commuting more efficient.

Rep. Quigley is a member of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of congressional lawmakers that promotes policies that harness American ingenuity, innovation and entrepreneurship to grow our economy. In May, he re-introduced the bipartisan Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s from Leaving the Economy (STAPLE) Act, which helps foreign-born individuals who have earned an American Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) continue to stay and work in the United States, helping us maintain our position as a global innovation leader. Over the summer, Rep. Quigley celebrated Startup Day Across America by visiting mHub, a Chicago incubator for forward-thinking startups, and learned how entrepreneurs are driving the city’s innovative spirit and strengthening the local economy.