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Navigator Duo Wins Third Place in 2023 Congressional App Challenge for Hawaiʻi’s First Congressional District

In a remarkable achievement of technological acumen, Island Pacific Academy Secondary students, Jinghao Li ‘26 and Kekoa Dung ‘27, secured third place in the prestigious 2023 Congressional App Challenge for Hawaiʻi’s First Congressional District. Their innovative and technically sophisticated app garnered the attention of the judges, highlighting their impressive coding skills, ingenuity, and commitment to excellence in the ever-evolving field of technology.

The winners of the Challenge were recognized at a special reception on December 8, 2023 at the Entrepreneurs Sandbox in Kaka‘ako where they were presented with their awards by Congressman Ed Case (HI-01).

Encouraged and supported by their Advanced Computer Science teacher, Dr. Devon Widmer, Li and Dung created a program called PyQuCryptor, which is an encryption software designed to be as easy to use as possible but with the highest levels of security.

“I decided to enter this contest because I thought it would be a very cool experience. I can learn a lot about new programming techniques, some of the challenges of building an app, and how do I even build an app in the first place,” explained Li.

“Jinghao channeled his passion for cryptography to create the backend of the app, which lets the user encrypt any file, set a password, and then decrypt the file by providing the correct password,” explained Widmer. “Kekoa coded the frontend of the app, giving PyQuCryptor its professional look and creating an intuitive user interface.”

“PyQuCryptor will help society by protecting the privacy of individuals,” shared Li about their software. “People can protect personal information on shared computers, transmit sensitive documents, and also protect against hackers and snoopers from gaining access to sensitive documents/information.”

Li’s passion for coding started in Grade 5 with basic HTML, it grew as he learned about Java in middle school, and then really expanded when he took the Intro to Computer Science class where he learned about the coding language Python and set up several projects running his own website and servers using Linux.

“I got into coding because I feel like it is an awesome thing to do, you can change the output of 1s and 0s and they somehow have a real effect on the lives of people all across the world,” shared Li. “I enjoy just creating something that I can call my own. I build my own computers, I write my own programs, and then I host my own website with my own computers. This allows me to have the most flexibility in what I do as I own or manage all of my technology and standards (such as language, operating systems, etc.).”

“The results of this year’s Challenge prove once again that [the students] have the skill set, imagination and resolve to compete against the best of our young people nationwide in science, technology, engineering and math, along with the potential to lead the next generations of computer science and technology,” shared Congressman Case in a press release.

The Congressional App Challenge is a national competition that encourages students to develop coding and programming skills while fostering an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. Participants are required to design and create an original app, addressing a specific issue or providing a solution to a problem. The challenge aims to inspire the next generation of leaders in technology and computer science.

Learn more about their project and the challenge and watch their video submission.