Local teens invent app to win top prize in Congressional district contest

Four local high school seniors have created a digital app and website that won top honors in a recent Congressional student innovation contest for this region.

Butler Tech students Robert Guise, Jacob Reed, Ethan Flohr and Micah Bolton wanted to help the public understand the importance of silicon in many of our everyday technology.

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More importantly, the silicon shortages – which have in recent months received wide attention for causing historic shortfalls in computer semi-conductors for new cars and other products – add to the urgency of recycling products already containing the metal.

So the four teens come up with the idea of creating their own company - Ohio Silicon Recycling – and a app and website to help Butler County and other area residents find the nearest silicon recycling center to return used technology containing the precious metal.

Their app won first place in the U.S. Congressman Warren Davidson (R-Troy)’s 8th district, which covers much of Ohio’s western border including Butler, Preble, Darke and Miami counties.

The four teens said in a joint statement their project and subsequent company’s website was created to “to raise awareness of the global silicon shortage.”

“The shortage affects nearly all processes and products that require semiconductor chips, such as cars, computers, and smartphones. The website teaches people what products around them contain silicon as well as provides a potential way for them to recycle said products,” they said.

“We also provided users with a way to sign up to collect silicon from as well as provides a potential way for them to recycle said products and we also provided users with a way to sign up to collect silicon from local areas around them.”

Davidson recently visited the winning team to present their first place award and their app will now compete in the national Congressional App Challenges.

The teens’ instructor Tom O’Neill - who teaches at both Ross High School and Butler Tech’s Fairfield Twp. campus - has helped dozens of Butler County high school students win similar or larger invention honors during his many years working for the career school’s technology learning programs.

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The secret, said O’Neill, is to take a hands-off approach with students and encourage them to solve real-world technology problems by inventing real life inventions.

He described the four first-place winners as “all curious, all motivated and all are not afraid to learn.”

O’Neill, who in 2019 won the Ohio Career Technical Teacher of the Year award, said one of the main goals of his classes is for teens to “make something socially impactful.”

“Don’t create something for the sake of creating it … we do everything in real time, real world and real product,” said O’Neill.

The winning students’ app now joins other winners to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building and are featured on the U.S. House of Representatives website.

Additionally, the students will each receive a $250 Amazon Web Services credit and are invited to attend in early 2022 the #HouseofCode Capitol Hill Reception in Washington D.C.

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