Folsom High senior wins congressional app contest | Congressman Ami Bera

Folsom High senior wins congressional app contest

Sep 9, 2014
In The News

Matthew Merrill, a senior at Folsom High School, won first place in the “House App Contest” in Sacramento County, which is a congressional competition sponsored by Rep. Ami Bera.

This is the first year of the annual “House App Contest,” a competition aiming to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with students.

Matthew’s app, “PiPlotter,” allows the user to take a picture using a mobile device and then transmits that image, using wi-fi, to a robotic drawing machine, which Matthew also created. This machine then draws the original picture on a canvas by interpreting the photo in vectors.

Rich Foreman, founder of Apptology and a judge in the contest, first told Matthew of the event after seeing his project at Engineering Day, where it also won first place.

The complexity of Matthew’s app helped him stand out from his competition.

“In terms of Matt's project, it's actually quite amazing and the combination of hardware and software development that he did is something rarely seen and usually takes a team,” said Foreman. “In my opinion, his project is more in line with graduate level work.”

Matt started developing “PiPlotter” in February and plans to continue refining it, making the drawings even smoother and more precise.

Having been interested in coding and programming from a young age, he has made other apps.

“I learned to code in Java in the seventh grade,” he said. “I've made video games, game modifications and several programming libraries, but have rarely published to the Internet.

“The first project I released was a game mod that got 1,000 downloads and a lot of positive feedback. The game creators added the feature into the game shortly afterward, so I like to think I had something to do with it.”

Matthew plans to go to a four-year university and major in computer science, and he is thankful for all of his mentors who have inspired him to pursue the computer programming field.

“Talking with the president and CTO of 5th Planet Game in Rocklin, as well as the founder of Apptology here in Folsom, has motivated me to believe a career in computer programming is not only feasible, but also fun,” he said.

Bera hopes Matt’s passion for technology and successful “PiPlotter” will inspire others to learn to code and participate in the contest in years to come.

“I'm proud to have Matthew Merrill as our very first House App Contest winner in Sacramento County. … Matthew’s PiPlotter App demonstrated skills far beyond his grade level -- programming an app to interact with an outside object is really difficult, and Matthew impressed everyone with his creativity and advanced coding skills,” said Bera. “I hope Matthew and the competition continue to inspire more students to take up coding; it is a key 21st century skill all of our students should be learning.”

For more information on Matt’s app, visit piplotter.blogspot.com.