MISSION CODE: State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, Ronil Awalegaonkar and Congressman Danny K. Davis meeting in the congressman's office on Jan. 26. | Photo submitted

During a brief ceremony on Jan. 26, at his district office, 2815 W. 5th Ave., U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th), along with state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, greeted sophomore Ronil Awalegaonkar with a certificate of recognition. Awalegaonkar was the 7th Congressional District winner of the 2018 Congressional APP Challenge, a nationwide competition for middle and high school students that encourages them to create new technologies. 

The competition, representatives with Davis’ office explained in a statement, was created “because Congress recognized that STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] and computer-based skills are essential for economic growth and innovation, and that the U.S. has been falling behind on these fronts. By some estimates, the U.S. may be short by as many as a million programmers by 2020.” 

Awalegaonkar’s app, “Drive Care.fully,” was among a few hundred chosen out of some 1,715 apps submitted by 5,229 students in 44 states.  

“The purpose of my app is to help create responsible drives, who will learn to adopt safe driving habits through awareness, practice and repetition, and strives to create a secure driving experience,” the teenager said. 

Davis said that he was “delighted to see young people have the opportunities available and to be able to make use not only of the technological stuff around, but how do we create, quite frankly, another world.” 

Awalegaonkar’s parents, Ketan and Shivani, both senior technology executives, said that they’re willing to extend their resources beyond the city’s tech hub of the West Loop, so that young people in places like Austin can get excited about technology, too. 

After referencing the divide between Chicago’s haves and have-nots, Ketan said that “technology is one of the best ways to bridge that divide. If people learn it, technology can provide a ton of access and bridge those gaps.” 

Ketan told Davis that he and his wife “would love to bring kids from your district” into some of the technology and innovation labs within their company on weekends “and just show them the art of the possible, show them how to code.” 

In keeping with his parents’ largesse Ronil offered to lend his technology capability to helping Davis’s office develop a podcast. 

“I was drawn to this challenge to help inspire young citizens to take part in the technological revolution,” Ronil said. “I eventually want to go into law and I’m using technology as a stepping stone to get there, because technology is in our everyday lives — people use it for medicine, for policy, for everything.” 

Winners of the App Challenge are invited to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate their apps to their respective representatives at a celebration called #Houseofcode, representatives with Davis’ office said.

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