High School Students Win Top Two Prizes for Congressional Data Challenge at the Library of Congress

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The Library of Congress announced the winners of the Congressional Data Challenge, a competition asking participants to use legislative data sets sourced from Congress.gov and other platforms to develop digital projects that analyze, interpret or share congressional data in user-friendly ways. High school students won the top-two prizes for the data-based competition, which was open to the general public. The first place winners, awarded $5,000 by the Library, are high school students, Alan Gomez-Tagle and Carter Nielsen, from Newton North High School in Massachusetts.

I was really impressed with the variety, quality and creativity of submissions we received – and that was before I knew the winning projects were made by high school students!” said Kate Zwaard, director for digital strategy at the Library of Congress. “I am thrilled this competition connected so many youth with the data we make available on Congress.gov and, by extension, the legislative process.”

The winning team submitted a project, titled “U.S. Treaties Explorer,” that enables researchers, students and the general public to explore treaties, agreements between countries, in an interactive and visual way instead of blocks of text. Their goal is that through data visualization, users will discover trends and find what they are looking for much more efficiently.

The students managed to use open source tools to make something better than most professional news organizations can make, and for that, they deserve to win,” said Andy Boyle, a writer, web developer and director of Platform Architecture at Axios, a digital company, and judge for the Congressional Data Challenge. “The data visualization communicates a great deal of information in a user-friendly format.”

The best high school project winner, awarded $1,000 by the Library, is Daniel Vebman, a junior at Friends Seminary School in New York City. Vebman developed a mobile application, titled “Dealmaker,” that gives voters with a tool to measure legislative collaboration in Congress. The application presents three visualizations for the relationships between current legislators: partisanship, geography and between individuals.

The geographic focus and the mobile accessibility of the application provide a better understanding of partisanship to people,” said Paul Ford, a journalist, programmer and co-founder of Postlight, a digital product studio in New York City, and judge for the Congressional Data Challenge. “The visualizations were solid and based on real data.”

A clinical information librarian, Ed Sperr, at the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership in Athens, Georgia, received an honorable mention for his project, titled “Members by Interest.” The online tool examines the types of bills that an individual Member of Congress sponsors and cosponsors. This is useful information not only to observers of Congress, but also for individuals who are interested in a particular issue.

Entries were evaluated based on three criteria: usefulness, creativity and design. The Library of  ongress sponsored the challenge to advance the discovery, use and exploration of the collection of  legislative information available to the nation and the world through the website Congress.gov. The Library of Congress launched labs.loc.gov to host a changing selection of experiments, projects, events  and resources designed to encourage creative use of the Library’s digital collections. To see the winning projects and find out more about the Congressional Data Challenge, visit HERE.


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