Jasmine Garry, an 11th grader at Eden Prairie High School (EPHS), recently combined her passion for sustainability with her skills in computer science to create an award-winning app that teaches users how to recycle.
Called RexCycle, the app has won U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips’ 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Minnesota’s Third District.
“I enjoy building apps because I am able to see the direct impact they have on the world,” Garry said. “Because of this, I built the app for the Congressional App Challenge to help create a fun way for people to engage with the environment in a positive way by having fun with recycling.”
The annual challenge, which is sponsored by the U.S. House of Representatives, aims to encourage middle and high school students to learn to code and to pursue careers in computer science.
Members of Congress host contests in their home districts, and each selects one winning app. Each winning student or team or students is then invited to showcase their app to Congress during an annual festival in mid-April.
In her pitch video, Garry said RexCycle is “a game-ified way” to teach people how to recycle and avoid contamination. RexCycle also has an image recognition system that allows users to upload photos of their potentially recyclable item to see if it’s safe to recycle.
Garry said she designed her app, which also includes a reward system to incentivize users, to prompt people to become more aware and adopt better habits to protect the environment.
“Through my research, I learned that not a lot of plastic that people do recycle actually gets recycled, because of contamination. That’s a little bit frustrating,” she said. “And it’s also frustrating for individuals to know how and what to recycle.”
She added, “RexCycle is a passion project of mine, and I hope it inspires people to think about how our habits and lifestyles have an impact on the earth and that every one of us can take steps to protect our planet one decision at a time.”
The app itself is not yet available for the public to download, but may be in the future, Garry said.
A passion for STEM
Garry said she has been interested in computer science since middle school, when she attended a summer class about web development. “After that, whenever I had an opportunity to take classes in high school or summer camps to learn more languages, I took it,” she said.
Last summer, she said she taught herself how to code to build an app, which took “hours and hours of researching.”
Not only does Garry pursue computer science coursework and extracurriculars at EPHS, she also spends time helping other people learn about computer science and other STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects.
Garry runs an online STEM tutoring organization called CREATE Tutoring, which offers free tutoring sessions to K-6 students interested in expanding their STEM knowledge.
“I created this platform because I knew kids needed additional resources to learn about STEM,” she said.
Garry said she has led more than 50 peer and high school tutors to give back to the community by helping hundreds of students.
“Running an organization has taught me how to manage tutors, leverage multiple social media platforms, and engage a community through various events and workshops,” she said.
Garry also leads weekly coding and app development classes for elementary-age girls who are interested in building apps. “I teach these groups of girls to use their creativity and new ideas to learn how to code and develop apps that can help solve social problems or environmental concerns,” she said.
In addition to her Congressional App Award, Garry said she recently earned second place overall at the most recent DECA state tournament and qualified to compete at the international competition this month in Orlando, Florida.
After she graduates in 2024, Garry said she plans to pursue a major in computer science and business.
“I hope to find meaningful work within the tech industry while in school, to gain experience while working towards some degrees that will help launch a career and ultimately venture into the tech start-up arena,” she said.
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