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Congressman Mrvan Surprises Two HCMS Students

Two students from Hanover Central Middle School entered the 2023 Congressional App Challenge with the guidance of computer science teacher, Mrs. Suzanne Demmond. 30 teams submitted entries to the Congressional App Challenge in District 1, which includes Lake, Porter, and LaPorte County, Indiana, and Hanover’s very own Mason Burdan and Joshua Mola won the challenge. This resulted in Congressman Frank Mrvan visiting Hanover Central Middle School to surprise the boys with the good news. 

The Congressional App Challenge began with the House of Representatives in 2014. From the flyer that encourages students to enter, we learned about the background. “This competition encourages students to create and submit their own app for the opportunity to receive national recognition.” Mrs. Demmond encouraged the boys to team up and submit an app for this contest. The boys completed the project in one month with no regrets about how the game turned out. When talking with the boys, Mason said, “We are hoping to create a sequel in the future with more features.”

Mason and Joshua submitted their computer horror game titled “The Dark Forest.” The game takes place inside a simple, 4 walled cabin, with 4 monsters outside of the cabin trying to break in. The object of the game is to prevent them from entering the cabin while also gaining points. Mason liked to call it a “multi-tasking simulator, “ because there are resources in the house to manage all the monsters, but you have to evenly distribute your attention to all the monsters, not just one. Mason took care of the creativity and design part of the game, whereas Joshua worked on the coding. While the game is fairly simple when it comes to the objective, plot, characters, and more, Mason mentioned that they wanted to give the “monsters” names, to have the game take place in a specific setting, and to add more detail to the maybe eventual sequel. 

On Friday, January 5th, the front office called Mason and Joshua down. Mason said, “I saw my parents here and I thought I was in trouble. When I saw a man in a suit (Mrvan), I thought, ‘Oh man, the government is coming to get me.’” When Joshua came down to join Mason, patiently waiting in the front office chairs, the boys had an inkling that this might have to do with the app challenge.  The boys were finally invited into the conference room by Principal Mr. Thomas Martin. Around the table sat Superintendent Dr. Mary Tracy-MacAulay, Mr. and Mrs. Mola, Public Information Officer, Kim Mooney, Assistant Superintendent, Phil Misecko, Mrs. Demmond, Mr. and Mrs. Burdan, Frank Mrvan, and Northwest Indiana Times Education writer, Adrian Martinez-De La Cruz. The boys knew at this point that something big was about to happen. Congressman Mrvan shook their hands and congratulated them on winning and the boys were genuinely shocked.

Congressman Mrvan presented the winners with official certificates in folios for their winnings.  Mason said, “I thought we got like third place or something.” He didn’t think that they were going to win and he felt, “astonished.” Mason said, “I feel like I am underdressed and I should be wearing a suit.” Joshua said that all he could feel was hunger because it was close to lunch. He said, “I was confused about what was happening. I just won? I want a hamburger.” The boys thought it was nice of Congressman Mrvan to come and congratulate them personally. 

The congressman informed the boys of a summer camp that Ivy Tech Valparaiso hosts every year. Mason, Joshua, and families may be invited to Washington D.C. later this year for a reception to honor all the winners of the Congressional App Challenge. Dr. Mary Tracy-MacAulay congratulated the boys on this achievement. “Their innovative minds earned them this prestigious honor and their talent, and commitment to excellence showcase the possibilities that emerge when creativity meets technology.  Hanover is incredibly proud of these young men and can't wait to see what's next for them both.”