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St. Johns County student wins Congressional App Challenge

Thomas Olinger, a Nease High School student, created an app called "Wordy," designed to improve vocabulary.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A St. Johns County high school student is now an award-winning app designer after creating a way to help people communicate better.

Nease High School Senior Thomas Olinger won the Congressional App Challenge for Florida's 4th Congressional District. 

The app he created is called "Wordy," an app designed to improve vocabulary. 

"They see a word they don’t know, and they can add it to a saved word list," Olinger said. "Once they save that word, they can play it and hear how it's pronounced. They can look up words that they don’t know. It acts like a dictionary."

Olinger said, while the app is designed for everyone to use, his inspiration came from his mother. 

“Being in an Asian household, I always saw my mom not being able to find the right word in conversation or not using the right word in the right situation, so this kind of helps deal with that issue," Olinger said. 

Olinger said he first learned about the competition as a freshman, which drew his attention toward computer science.

“I really didn’t have programming skills at the time, but I wanted to try and pursue this work and field and try something on my own. So around 10th and 11th grade, over quarantine, I had a lot of time to hone my skills and learn," Olinger said. 

The senior received special acknowledgment from Congressman John Rutherford for the app. Olinger's app will be on display in the U.S. Capitol Building for the year. 

Right now, the app is not accessible to the public, but Olinger said he hopes to improve it and share it with the world. 

"It’s pretty basic right now, and there could be other apps on the market like this," he said. "I’ll maybe add different languages or like features that let you practice the words that you save to the list.”

Olinger is graduating this spring and wants to pursue a computer science degree. 

“I want to go to college after high school and study computer science, and I’ll see where it takes me from there," he said. "I’ll continue to make more apps and try to solve mere problems that people face.”

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