St. Johns County student creates award-winning app to help people learn new words

Thomas Olinger, a senior at Nease High School. has won this year's Congressional App Challenge. He joins us on The Morning Show with more on his new app!

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A St. Johns County high school senior was recently named the winner of the 2021 Congressional App Challenge for Florida’s 4th Congressional District. It’s a nationwide contest that began in 2015 and takes place in each congressional district across the country.

Thomas Olinger, who attends Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, created the app called Wordy, which allows users to learn new words and remember previously learned words.

“It acts like a dictionary, but you can also learn new words, that’s the main feature of Wordy. It generates new words every time you scroll on the screen, so you can add it to like the saved words list and go through it every time you want to use it or want to learn any definition,” Olinger said on The Morning Show.

Olinger told the St. Augustine Record the app was inspired by his Chinese mother whose second language is English.

Olinger said he learned to code at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic using an online course and created the app three months before the competition.

“Well, first it comes to an idea and you have to figure out how to accomplish the idea,” Olinger said. “It took a lot of Googling to figure out the skills that I needed, but, after that, you have to bash your head and work your way through problems, it takes a long time but in the end, I think it all pays off and you’re going to be happy with your product.”

Congressman John Rutherford praised Olinger for his creation.

“His outstanding app is a testament to his hard work and a reflection of the top-notch educators we have here in Northeast Florida. I know Thomas has a bright future ahead of him and I look forward to seeing where his future takes him,” Rutherford said in a statement.

Olinger said he is focusing on improving his app and applying to colleges like the Univerity of Florida, the University of Southern California and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I think I’m gonna go deeper and take steps to improve my app. I also want to just study more about computer science and find your solutions and technology,” he said.

About the Authors:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.