Dublin Coffman's Steve Speck wins Congressional contest for app created for his mother

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
Dublin Coffman High School junior Steve Speck

CORRECTION: Because of an editing error, the headline in the previous version of this story inadvertently used the wrong first name.

What began as a self-motivated effort by a Dublin Coffman High School junior to create a program to streamline laboratory testing for pathologists has resulted in the 16-year-old student winning the 2020 Congressional App Challenge.

“A lot of time and effort went into creating this app over the summer. I’m happy about winning,” said Steve Speck, who aspires to a career in quantum computing.

But it is up to Speck to market his app, he said, and to develop it and to see it put into use.

“I don’t see it being a mobile app but rather a program that can be downloaded (to a desktop or laptop computer),” Speck said.

In February 2020, just before the start of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Speck said, he wrote the coding for a program that could be used to streamline case management for pathologists working in a laboratory setting, based on specialization and workload.

Speck’s mother, Olga Speck, is an OhioHealth health-care worker at CORPath LLC, which is pathology group in Columbus providing pathology and laboratory services to multiple OhioHealth hospitals, including Riverside, Grant and Dublin hospitals. The app would serve to improve the workflow of OhioHealth laboratory services.

“My mother knows I write code, and she asked me about what I thought about doing something for pathologists, (and) I thought, 'I’ll give it a shot,' ” Speck said.

The program is designed to more efficiently manage a pathologist’s patient caseload and to streamline the scheduling of tests and the delivery of test results, Speck said.

The Congressional App Challenge was brought to Speck’s attention by Greg King, Speck’s Advanced Placement computer-science teacher.

“He sent an email to me about it, and I entered,” Speck said.

King said Speck is "a strong computer-science student with a great work ethic."

"Whether in class, in cross country or in robotics, Steve works hard and is always willing to pitch in to help solve problems," King said. "But even more importantly, he genuinely enjoys figuring out how to do something new while solving problems. That blend of competence, work ethic and enthusiasm is rare. I knew that whether he won or not, he would create a good piece of software that was actually useful."

The Congressional App Challenge is an annual competition showcasing the value of computer science and STEM education by encouraging middle and high school students to learn how to code through the creation of their own apps, according to Erin Collins, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville).

Speck was named the winner among contestants in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, which includes the Dublin City School District.

Entries from students across the 12th District were assessed by a panel of local experts on criteria that included a demonstration of coding and programming skills, as well as the quality and implementation of the proposal, according to Collins.

Winning apps are eligible for exhibition in the U.S. Capitol Building and are featured on the U.S. House of Representatives’ website, Collins said.

For the purpose of the contest, Speck said, he broadened its scope but used the basic concept he had developed for his mother.

Speck said his father, Chris Speck, a computer programmer, had fueled his interest in computer science.

“I began programming when I was in the fifth grade and have stayed with it,” Speck said. 

He is passing along his expertise and passion to those even younger as a tutor for Code Ninjas, a company that provides virtual coding instruction to children, when possible, at in-person centers and camps.

Speck said he wants to major in physics or computer science, possibly at the Ohio State University.

kcorvo@thisweknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo