Academic Spotlight: Naperville North senior wins app contest
Yasha Mostofi, a senior at Naperville North High School, was named the inaugural winner of the 11th Congressional District House App Challenge, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academic competition.
“I think it’s great that the House of Representatives is taking initiatives to promote STEM at the high school level,” said Mostofi, 17. “Furthermore, winning this contest, and participating in it, has helped me realize that computer science and programming are what I want to do in the future.”
Established by members of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013, the nationwide contest allows high school students from across the country to compete with other students who reside in their congressional district. The challenge: to create and exhibit their software application, or “app,” for mobile, tablet, or computer devices on a platform of their choice.
Mostofi said he learned about the contest through Facebook, and was encouraged by his robotics mentor and computer science teacher at North, Geoffrey Schmit. His design, a scouting app, was not only the contest winner in the 11th Congressional District, but a helpful resource.
“I wrote the scouting app for our FIRST robotics team,” Mostofi said. “The basic principle is that it allowed us to collect crucial data regarding other robots that we are competing against, so that when we are with or against them in a match, we can use the data we collected to create a strategy for that match.”
Mostofi said the data included points scored, speed of robot, weight of robot, starting position of robot, and any failures that occurred during the match.
Congressman Bill Foster paid a visit to Naperville North on Nov. 11 to personally congratulate him and present him with a certificate of excellence. In addition, his app will be featured on House.gov.
“The House App Challenge was judged by three experts who scored each app on presentation, innovation, production quality, and coding and technical skills,” Foster said. “Yasha’s app not only showed off his programming ability, but also his ability to apply his knowledge to solve complex problems.”
Foster, a scientist and businessman, said he knows firsthand how valuable STEM skills are.
“I enjoyed math competitions when I was in high school, and when I was 19, my younger brother and I started a company that now makes most of the theater lighting equipment in the United States,” Foster said.
Foster said competitions like the House App Challenge are important for several reasons.
“(Competitions like this) help young people learn new STEM skills and get them excited about bringing their ideas to life,” Foster said. “As we move increasingly towards a STEM-based economy, it is important that our students get the education and training they will need to succeed. Programs like this help get students excited about STEM fields and help them build the skills they will need for careers in the modern economy.”