The Student App Challenge, a design-your-own-app competition for high school students, is underway, according to state Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5.

Esty has joined New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, Naugatuck Valley Community College President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Starbase Connecticut Executive Director Melissa Vanek, New Britain Superintendent Kelt Cooper, and high school students involved in Connecticut's pre-engineering program for the challenge.

The competition is open to all high school students who live in or are eligible to attend public schools in the 5th District.

"The Challenge is an opportunity for students to be creative and get excited about computer programming," said Esty, co-founder of the U.S. House of Representatives' Student App Challenge, a nationwide congressional science, technology, engineering and math academic competition.

Students, by themselves or in teams of up to four, enter the competition by submitting a YouTube or Vimeo video demo explaining their app and what they learned through the competition process by April 30.

Esty will conduct a workshop April 5 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury, where students will have an opportunity to use computer-programming resources to create their apps and record their submissions.

"Jobs in computer programming and design are expected to grow by 50 percent in the next few years," Esty said. "Manufacturing is the backbone of Connecticut's economy. We have exciting job opportunities in high-tech manufacturing," she said, "but I've heard time and time again from manufacturers that they can't find workers with the right skill sets.

"Our students need to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st century," Esty said, "and this competition will help students gain experience with computer programming at a young age. I look forward to hearing about their creative ideas and trying out some new apps."

Esty serves on the House's Science, Space, and Technology Committee and has focused on supporting STEM education.

She introduced the STEM Jobs Act to support teacher professional development in the STEM fields.

One winner will be selected from each participating congressional district.

The winner will be announced May 18 at a reception at NVCC.

Judges include Felix Cowey, deputy director of Starbase Connecticut; Bruce Dixon, CEO of the Connecticut pre-engineering program; Peter Angelastro, STEM academic division director for NVCC, and representatives from iDevices in Farmington and Moonbase 3, a Web design company in East Hartford.

For information, contest guidelines and helpful programming resources, visit www.esty.house.gov/congressional-stem-competition.