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Students craft custom mobile apps for IT competition

Andrew Erickson, an information systems graduate student at Illinois State, presents his app at the 2013 MAD Contest finals.

The next hit mobile phone app could be developed by an Illinois State student thanks to the Mobile Application Development (MAD) Contest sponsored by State Farm.

In early February students were charged to conceptualize an app for mobile devices in either single- or two-person teams. The apps developed needed to help promote good behavioral habits in young adults.

In the first phase of the contest students presented their concepts and supporting documentation to a panel of information technology faculty who assessed whether the app would promote good habits, have practical use, and be feasible for students to create. From the 23 students who entered the contest, five individuals and four teams moved on to the final round.

That’s where the competition really heated up. Students were charged with developing a working prototype of the app in less than three months.

Andrew Erickson, a graduate student in information systems, took a risky approach by using new augmented reality technology. His app, Tune Up, allows users to keep track of routine maintenance and expenses for their vehicles. The car uses a simulated dashboard based on the user’s vehicle and is intuitive enough that it can even tell users where to get the best gas prices in the area.

Since the School of Information Technology contest began, Erickson, who received second place last year, has spent 20 hours a week programming and perfecting features of the app.

“The contest was a major time dedication, but the learning benefits are tremendous,” Erickson said. “Participating allows me to establish myself in mobile application development.”

Erickson will begin a career as a systems analyst at State Farm in May after graduating.

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Rebecca Duxler and Jason Manley discuss their app,  “Maximize Me.”

Information systems majors Rebecca Duxler and Jason Manley partnered to create Maximize Me, an app that promotes healthy eating habits. Duxler and Manley created the app—allowing users to look for foods by type, brand, or number of calories—because they see healthy eating choices as an issue many students struggle with.

“I eat unhealthy sometimes and notice other students doing the same,” Duxler said.” We wanted to do something that promoted healthy habits and felt that this app would appeal to college students and young adults.”

Duxler also noted that the contest was an invaluable opportunity for her and Manley to integrate lessons they have learned in class with concepts they have researched on their own. In the end, the team poured more than 50 hours into creating the app and has more ideas to enhance it.

Contest participants presented working prototypes of their apps to a panel of IT professionals from State Farm on April 18. The apps presented ranged from disc golf caddies to time management platforms to study aids, even an app that can silence a phone on its own. Each app showed the vision and self-directed learning that made the projects possible.

“I hope to see even more competition next year,” Erickson said. “I know so many people in the program who are capable of doing creative things. The work is very rewarding.”

Winners will be announced at the IT Awards Banquet on Friday, April 26. Prizes include a variety of tablet computers donated by State Farm.

View a list of finalists and their projects.

Steven Barcus can be reached at srbarcu@IllinoisState.edu.

 

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