Luu wins award for Level Up tutoring app

Level+Up+club+members+gather+for+a+picture+

Cynthia Brisky

Level Up club members gather for a picture

Natalie Rassiger, Staff Writer

   On January 21, 2022 junior Theo Luu, one of the four co-founders of Level-Up Tutoring, won the Congressional App Challenge—a contest that recognizes STEM-related programs that high school students develop—for creating the code for a tutoring app that provides free tutoring for underprivileged students.

   Luu’s app competed against 15,000 other app entries from all 50 states. The recognition that Luu received was an added bonus to what the real mission had been, which was to create a way to connect with students in need of tutoring. 

   Earlier in the year, Luu was inspired to find a way to help kids that may need extra help with their homework and  learned about a group of students in the Dominican Republic that had this need.

   “I thought that it would be a great opportunity to get more involved in helping the global community by providing knowledge I had learned in school.”

   Luu knew that it would be difficult to be an effective tutor without an efficient way to match his availability to that of the students, so he went to work on creating a solution.

   Luu chose a final project for his eight-week coding class, CS50’s Web Programming with Python and JavaScript, creating a robust tutoring app seemed to be a great choice, both because it would fulfill the requirement, and because it allowed him to be more effective in his tutoring mission.

    “I created my own tutoring app called HS Connect that would continue to link me, as a tutor, to kids in the Dominican Republic that needed help with their school work,” said Luu. “I knew that I wanted to create something that was more meaningful than creating a game-like program like all of the other kids were doing because that was not worth my time.” 

   And the benefit of this app is even more pronounced as Luu expanded his efforts, merging with another WHS student tutoring group called Pencil Tips, started by Emma McNulty, Hanna Wang, and Ben Pomianek. Pencil Tips had a similar mission, and Luu thought they could take their combined efforts to the next level.

   “There were so many different paths that we could take when expanding our two programs together,” Luu said. “The possibilities were endless.”

   Luu, alongside the founders of Pencil Tips, were very thoughtful about their coordinated mission and how to be most impactful. They were able to address the inequality in education and reach as many students in need as possible. They all had ideas around how to create a stronger organization.

  “There were so many different paths that we could take when expanding our two programs together,” sophomore Sanket Vankayalapati, the outreach coordinator of Level Up tutoring said. “The possibilities were endless.”

   By formalizing the structure, they created the foundation that led to significant expansion and success. As a result, Level Up Tutoring was soon turned into a non-profit organization.

   “I think we exceeded the main goal of Level-Up,” Luu said. “I believe that our tutoring makes a big difference and that is very rewarding.”

    When Luu was initially coding this app, he had no intention of entering the Congressional App Challenge, let alone winning it.

    “It was the work that was important; the award was just a bonus,” McNulty said.

   Level-Up Tutoring has been a big success and they are always looking for new members to expand their club. They meet every activity block in room 208 and students can email Theo Luu at 23luut@weston.org for more information.

   “The more interest and the more people that get involved, the bigger the difference that we can make,” Luu said.