Winning iPhone Ideas Put Info Within Easy Reach
Contest Asked Students to Design Applications to Aid Users on Campus
Apr. 23, 2010
Winning entries in the campus-wide iPhone app contest were as individual as the students who created them.
The top entry, announced last week by the School of Management, was designed by computer science junior Devery Channell. Second place went to ATEC grad student Simon Kane, and third place went to the team of computer science junior Landon Elfenbein and public affairs senior Alex Ransom.
The first-place award came with a $2,500 prize, second place $1,500, and third place $1,000.
“The contest entries came from a remarkable variety of people – from undergraduates to grad students, from public affairs to finance to art to computer science,” said Ben Guthrie, one of the contest’s judges. “The programming skills ranged from zero programming experience to professional. Creativity was present in all entries.”
Channell’s winning entry, he said, is a suite of applications that provides important information in an easily accessible mobile format. “These are services that students and staff actually need,” he said. For instance, one feature allows users to look up contact information, including office location, phone number and email address. One fun feature allows a user to pinpoint his or her parking spot when leaving the car.
Kane’s second-place submission allows users to scroll around a campus map and see what’s happening. The application relies on building maps that eventually, he says, “will cover the entire campus, every floor, every room.” It also collects real-time data from other social media, including Twitter, FourSquare, Flickr, Gowalla and others, to create “geolocated media snippets,” Kane says.
“Our app is targeted toward campus visitors and new students who need to find their way around campus,” said Ransom, who created the third-place app with Elfenbein. “It has neat features which key in on useful things to know and would be good for campus regulars as well.” Some quick links include parking and building information, campus services and external links to eLearning.
The contest was sponsored by the School of Management and the Center for Information Technology and Management (CITM) at the School of Management, along with the UT Dallas President’s Office and Symon Communications, a Plano-based company that is a corporate partner with the School of Management. Symon created InView Mobile, a location-based portal to access web material. Guthrie, product manager of InView Mobile, says the platform can be summed up as “you are here – here’s content based on where you are.”
Contest judges included Guthrie; Charles Ansley, Symon’s president and CEO; Hasan Pirkul, dean at UT Dallas School of Management; Michael Savoie, director of CITM; Ed Esposito, assistant dean at UT Dallas Erik Jonsson School of Engineering & Computer Science; Stuart Murchison, professor of Geospatial Sciences & Geography at UT Dallas School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences; Richard Huckaba, UT Dallas associate provost; and Jim Gary, the university’s vice president and chief information officer.
“It was important that we had judges representing all these different fields, just as an app is something that draws on talents across typical academic boundaries,” said Diane McNulty, School of Management associate dean for external affairs. “Symon represents the commercialization of these talents – obviously something important to those of us in the School of Management. It’s significant to the students – and the judges – that the university to continue to offer these cross-disciplinary opportunities so our students are prepared for the business world as it exists today.”
Channell later explained how, on a wall-sized white board in his apartment, he would list ideas, refine them, do more research, and refine the list again. “I’m really good at the technical part,” he said. It was the content ideas he had to work on. Channell says he’ll use the winnings to attend school this summer and get new tires for his car.
Kane's entry elicited the most “How did he do that?” comments from the judges. A key element to his entry, he said, was tying into eight different social media networks. He plans to use at least part of his winnings to purchase an iPad.
Third-place winners Ransom and Elfenbein played to each other’s strengths. Ransom, who is an editor at the UTD Mercury, said her favorite part was brainstorming content ideas. For Elfenbein, a computer science major, he had never done a mobile application before, so it was a good learning exercise “something to add to my resume.”
“From classroom locations to local eateries, the various entries highlighted the diverse amount of information available to visitors to the campus,” said Savoie. “Each entry not only showcased the technical skills of the applicants, but the diversity of information, events and activities available to campus visitors.”