TMS Junior Wins 2023 Congressional App Challenge in Nevada

The Meadows School campus with green trees and paved sidewalks in Las Vegas, Nevada
TMS Junior Wins 2023 Congressional App Challenge in Nevada

Nevada Representative Susie Lee has named Matthew Cacuci, a junior at TMS, as the winner of the 2023 Congressional App Challenge in Nevada’s Third District. The number of submissions to the Congressional App Challenge in 2023 surpassed all previous participation records. Matthew was honored with a special Congressional recognition for InvestinGator, a unique app that he developed to combat financial illiteracy in youth and help young investors gain knowledge and experience with a risk-aware and socially responsible mindset.

Award Description

According to its website, the Congressional App Challenge is “the most prestigious prize in student computer science.” It is an official initiative of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Members of Congress host contests in their districts for middle school and high school students, encouraging them to learn to code and inspiring them to pursue careers in computer science. Each participating Member of Congress selects a winning app from their district. The program is a public-private partnership made possible through funding from Omidyar Network, AWS, Rise, theCoderSchool, Apple, and others.

As the 2023 winner from Nevada’s Third District, Matthew is invited to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. to showcase his winning app to Congress during the annual #HouseofCode event this April. His app will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol and will be featured on the House of Representatives website.

App Description 

When asked what inspired the creation of InvestinGator, Matthew said, “Growing up in a family where both my parents are financial professionals, I was naturally interested in and exposed to financial concepts like quarterly earnings, market outlook, and interest rate forecasts. In 2020, during middle school, I participated in a 30-day stock market simulation competition. To my disappointment, my well-diversified and strategized portfolio unexpectedly took a big hit when the pandemic hit. I became frustrated when some competitors, who bought shares of companies they simply didn’t understand or made risky investments with penny stocks or by short-selling shares, significantly outperformed me during that unprecedented period. I felt the game, played by thousands of students across the country, sent the wrong message to the young investors as it was based on short-term return without taking investment risks into consideration.

"Being comfortable in several programming languages, in high school I felt the urge to develop a more relevant simulation app than the standard stock market games currently offered to middle and high school students. I wanted to send a message with my unique and fun app to raise awareness of the risks involved in investments and to educate youth about socially responsible investing. Investors can profit from and support companies that are working to make a positive impact at the same time.

"With that, I created InvestinGator.”

Community Engagement

With the initial goal to become an advocate for addressing areas of inequity in STEM education funding, and out of his passion for STEM fields, Matthew founded the BrainSTEMs YouTube channel in middle school to provide free STEM education videos. Shortly after he joined TMS in 9th grade, Matthew also founded PEER (Promoting Equity in Engineering and Robotics) Club and has been serving as the President of the club since. Over the past years, under Mrs. Trujillo’s guidance, PEER Club has continued to grow and be active on campus and has functioned as the outreach branch of The Meadows School’s FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC) Team, 8005 The Mega Meadowbots.

Early last year, on behalf of PEER, Matthew reached out to the YMCA of Southern Nevada, a community-based nonprofit organization, and dedicated three weeks of his summer break to host robotics and coding workshops at various YMCA locations in Nevada. PEER is currently collaborating with multiple YMCA centers on plans to offer more free workshops on weekends and after school throughout the school year and during summer and winter break. In addition, PEER has been producing free educational content in the form of entertaining YouTube videos by bringing engineering concepts and ideas to a wider audience. PEER has also been corresponding with the Dean of Engineering at Ohio State University, Dr. Ayanna Howard, a renowned Roboticist who has made outstanding achievements in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM research opportunities.

Currently, Matthew is working to introduce PEER to Congresswoman Lee’s office to grow PEER into a state-wide organization to promote engineering, robotics, and other STEM-related fields in underrepresented communities. Matthew hopes to leverage this opportunity to develop STEM mentorship and scholarship programs for high school students with local businesses, with a long-term goal of transforming Las Vegas into a STEM incubator.

Matthew Cacuci
TMS Class of 2025

  • Computer Science
  • Upper School