By: Diane Stirling
Eleven student teams from several Syracuse University schools showcased their big ideas for web and mobile apps Wednesday night at the inaugural SU Student App Competition.
This was a different type of entrepreneurship competition, according to event founder Keisuke Inoue, a Ph.D. student and instructor at the School of Information Studies (iSchool). The forum focused solely on students’ ideas and concepts for apps, as opposed to a more diffused look at an idea along with its business plan. As an opportunity to “present, recognize, and celebrate people who build systems,” the competition also represented a learning experience for students, Keisuke explained. “The point is to show your idea to the general public or to judges who have expertise, and receive feedback, then you can then integrate that feedback into how to improve the app.”
Winners named were:
- Grand prize ($1,000): Citizen Sort.
- Mobile App category ($500): Orange Events
- Web App category: two winners (each receiving $500): UValue and CheckIt
- “Wildcard”category ($500): Elbow Room
- Journalism Innovation ($500): iOpenVisualization
The grand prize winner (www.citizensort.org), is a National Science Foundation-funded research project based in the iSchool, with faculty members Kevin Crowston and Jun Wang as principal investigators. A large team of students also serves various development and fulfillment capacities.
The app uses video games as a means to engage people with the citizen science project of classifying species. Through photo identification and sorting, participants provide metadata and are encourage to keep doing so through two games, one that is puzzle based and another that is story based. The app provides a functional value, while permitting researchers to study how various games and online engagement styles affect participation.
iSchool Ph.D. student Nathan Prestopnik, representing the project at the event, said that although the web site has only been live since October, 180 participants are involved in classification activity, and the competition offered a chance to obtain more exposure and more users.
When Rey Cortorreal, an L.C. Smith School of Computing Science junior, was looking for something to do on campus one day, he felt that surfing SU’s Orange Events site on a laptop was inefficient since everyone uses smartphones these days. So he promptly built a mobile app that imports existing campus events calendar information and makes the data more easily accessible. His app lets users open a phone and immediately see what events are taking place in the next few hours. The app is now in demo mode, and Rey said he is working to add various filters to enhance the level of event details provided.
Joshua Anderson, Whitman ‘11 and iSchool (IM) ’14 grad student, has a web app that allows students on campuses to share items and resources to make a profit. To him, events like the competition are “really about marketing. We’re brand new, and trying to make sure we have a presence and people know about us. Syracuse is our test market, so this gets the word out.” His company, founded officially in July, has a goal of promoting frictionless commerce and collaboration within college communities. He plans to use its winnings to make a commercial spot for web and media use.
With its electrified lego blocks demonstrating how Elbow Room counts people, the app, an innovation of L.C. Smith College of Engineering student Austin Williams, a computer engineer, and iSchool student Ryan St. Pierre, its operations and marketing manager, originated with the goal of finding a quiet place on campus to study. The app counts in real time the number of people who are occupying a specific space. For inventor Austin, the competition provided significant useful feedback. “I’ve heard so many different ideas from people today where they see this being used.” That includes not only campus use, but consumer, business, and safety applications, he said.
First-semester IM master’s iSchooler Rudy Rusli’s app, the winner of the journalism innovation category, takes public data and displays it visually as meaningful information, in this case, permitting Indonesian citizens to draw conclusions about how their government is operating and any degree of corruption that exists, Rusli said. Using government agency public data, the app uses different kinds of visualization techniques to bring public awareness. The idea began when Rudy was asked by an Indonesian non-profit to find a way to increase public awareness about what city governments were doing with public funds, and it combines his academic interest in promoting the effective use of information visualization.
Finding an efficient way to schedule multiple meetings every day with many people led to the idea for CheckIt, a drag and drop automated appointment-making system created by Blaine Killen, of both Whitman and the iSchool, and Yogesh Chadhari, a second-year IM iSchool student. By showing the availability of groups of people on screen, the app is useful for busy people who need to coordinate appointments and can do so easily and efficiently, without multiple emails or through a secretary, he explained. The app competition was useful, since “We have a lot of things we do, but we [learn], ‘What do people really care about’,” Killen noted.
Other student teams involved in the competition were:
- ABADCAM – Topher Lawton and Alec Gilfillan, LIS students; a web app that provides a basic resource for the Library Association of Cameroon to centralize membership lists and communicate;
- Ezange – Xiao Xie, Chris Duarte, and Joshua Kitlas; a web forum for confessions and innovative ways to absolve your misdeeds;
- Newsgiffy.com – Alfred Ng, the College of Arts and Sciences, whose web site builds gifs into “news nuggets that are more than a photo, less than a video” to enhance news coverage;
- Ride Pool – the concept of Vicky Singh and Juned Ansari, for a ride pool application that has the added advantage of rating riders by socially-constructed trust factors;
- Free Shizit – Dee Cater, Zouran Ma, and Christian Calo, a web app that provides a “hyper-local way to find free stuff and promotions.”
The competition was held in concert with Entrepalooza, an event sponsored by the Raymond Von Dran IDEA (Innovation and Disruptive Entrepreneurship Accelerator) and Whitman School of Management at SU. Prizes were provided by Bailey, Haskell & LaLonde; Polaris Library Systems; the iSchool; Rounded Development Co.; and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.