ISHPEMING - U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek spoke to more than 30 Ishpeming High School students Wednesday afternoon about a new contest challenging high school students to design and submit their best software application, or "app."
Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, said students can create the app for cell phones, tablets or computers on a platform of their choice. Similar to the annual Congressional Art Contest, Benishek said the U.S. House sponsored competition - which is divided by Congressional districts - was created to promote science and technology education.
To enter, students who are at least 13 years old must submit their app's source code online, as well as a YouTube or Vimeo video explaining the app and what they learned while creating it.
U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, on Wednesday tells a group of Ishpeming High School students from business and government classes about a new app design contest in Benishek’s 1st Congressional District. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
For students who don't know anything about designing an app, information is available on Benishek's website, and his office has partnered with a mentor from Michigan Tech University to help answer questions that will come up during the process.
"There's all kinds of options once they get in there. They'll be able to learn about it," Benishek said. "So hopefully it'll be a positive experience for every kid."
Benishek said his office will appoint a panel from within the academic, software and entrepreneurial fields to judge students' final products.
The winner of the competition will have their app featured on the House website and will also get help in marketing and promoting the software, Benishek said.
He also took the opportunity to hold a question and answer session with the students - most of whom were juniors and seniors - about the importance of science, technology, engineering and math education (the "STEM" curriculum); why he got involved in politics and what his typical day in Washington D.C. is like; and also shared some of his concerns and hopes for their generation's economic future.
Benishek, who practiced as a surgeon in Iron Mountain before running for Congress, told the students he'd gone to medical school so he could find a job in the Upper Peninsula, and that he's promoting alternative education and vocational training because finding work in the area is still a challenge.
"We're trying to focus on making it easier to find vocational education opportunities so you can maybe find work with skills after one or two years of training after high school," he said.
Asked about his experiences in Washington and if he'd met President Obama, Benishek said: "It's not all as glamorous as people might think. ... It's different when you're from the U.P. and then you go to Washington. You'd rather be here. Trust me."
The students also had some more lighthearted questions. Torie Beltrame asked Benishek if he would follow her on Twitter.
"I'm not a real Twitter person," he said.
"I tweeted you twice asking you to follow me," she said.
Benishek laughed and said: "I just don't follow my Twitter. I have someone follow my Twitter for me."
For more information on the app design competition, visit Benishek's website at www.benishek.house.gov/appcontest.
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.