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Aspiring App Developers Compete in Hackathon

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Frank Helle and Godfrey Yeung

Godfrey Yeung demonstrates his app to Frank Helle, CEO of Axian, at the App Hackathon.
 

Having trouble managing your time? Need to know if a pineapple is ripe? There’s an app for that.

These useful apps were developed by Oregon State University students participating in a mobile application competition called the App Hackathon. Over winter term, the students got help building their own mobile applications from organizers Dan Albert, Ryley Herrington and Riley Hickman. The three seniors wanted to help more students enter the world of app development, so they organized the event for their senior design project.

Nicole Phelps describes her app, Just Ripe Nicole Phelps describes her app, Just Ripe, to Luke Kanies, CEO and founder of Puppet Labs.

Representatives from Puppet Labs, Vadio, Axian and Microsoft who came to judge the final projects on April 13 were very supportive and encouraging of the students testing their creativity and innovation.

Frank Helle, chief executive officer of Axian, praised Nicole Phelps on the marketability of her app, Just Ripe, which won for Most Commercial Potential. Her app helps users determine ripeness of produce, but also includes nutritional information, tips for storage, and recipes.

“It’s a cool name, and it catches people’s attention, but there is a lot more there,” Helle said, explaining he could see a lot of potential for working with grocery stores to integrate coupons into the app.

The industry representatives also singled out Dean Johnson for his clear pitch of Flatter Me Please, an app that sends compliments to the user or a friend along with a music selection.

“That’s part of being market driven. You started right off with saying what you were doing, why you were doing it, and for whom you were doing it. That’s so important to set a context,” Helle told Johnson as he was presented the award for Largest User Base.

Many of the students were motivated to build an app that would solve a problem they were having. Tim Chen needed help managing his time, and created Time Advisor which won for Usefulness to User. The app produces a calendar for the user based on their class schedule and other metrics, helping the user to be more efficient with their free time.

Carly Farr shows her app, Flashcard Carly Farr explains her app to Mathew Polzin, of Vadio, Inc and fellow student, Godfrey Yeung.

Carly Farr’s Flashcard app updates the old paper method of studying definitions and won for Closest to Release. In this mobile version, users type in text for both sides of the card and then flip through them on their tablet or phone. Decks of flashcards can be easily shared with classmates. Farr, who is majoring in biology, also hopes to add a photo feature, so users can snap a picture of a molecule they need to identify, for example.

Farr really enjoyed the App Hackathon which gave her an opportunity to practice writing code as well as creating an app she plans to use.

“I was nervous to be presenting my very first app to a room full of CEOs and engineers since I'm a science major, but am so appreciative for all of the great feedback and encouragement they gave,” Farr said.

There were also apps for entertainment, such as Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock, by Jeffrey Wentz, a game inspired by the television show, Big Bang Theory. Wentz’s app got the most votes from the other students, winning the People’s Choice Award. And the Judge’s Choice Award went to DJPi, a party app that allows people to add songs to a common playlist from their mobile device, created by Chris Vanderschuere. The list of songs is stored on a webserver and played through a Raspberry Pi (a single board computer) connected to speakers.

At the conclusion of the event co-organizer, Herrington, said, “This has been a really fun project to see from beginning to end and hopefully people will continue writing apps.”