First published in the Jan. 1 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff has announced winners of the 2021 Congressional App Challenge for their work in promoting sustainability, community service and mental health, and a Glendale middle school student placed third in the competition.
Nico Messerlian, a 7th-grader at Woodrow Wilson Middle School student, won for his app “Strell’s Playground,” designed to provide stress and anxiety relief amid the COVID-19 pandemic by creating a positive virtual world.
Messerlian said his app “creates a safe place for students and teachers to explore, through their intuition, what they can do in each area of the playground. Because it involves the discovery and the desire to see what happens, it distracts students and teachers from any negative thoughts. It inspires creativity and a desire to discover a fun and positive world, thereby reducing stress and anxiety.”
Established by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013 to promote STEM and computer-based skills, the Congressional App Challenge is open to all middle and high school students who live in or attend school in California’s 28th Congressional District, which includes Glendale.
“California’s 28th District is home to some of the brightest young minds in the country – and the submissions we received for this year’s Congressional App Challenge prove it,” said Schiff, a Democrat.
“The past two years have been exceptionally difficult for middle and high school students. Yet these incredible young people were able to turn that hardship into inspiration, developing apps that will make the world around them a better place — a talent more necessary today than ever before,” he added.
“I’m tremendously proud of every participant in this year’s challenge, and it is my hope that they will continue to develop and hone their computer science skills. They will be highly coveted future talent for many of our most advanced tech companies.”
Messerlian is a member of the GENYES tech team. He lives in Glendale with his younger brother, mom and dad, and his dog, Toffee. When he’s not coding, he enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Anjali Tripathi, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, served as this year’s judge and helped Schiff present the awards during a ceremony in December.