IT contest encourages “app-lications”

The winner of the Mobile App Challenge will receive $10,000

By Sarah Miller

After low participation last year, University IT Services has launched the second annual UChicago Mobile App Challenge, a year-long effort to encourage students, faculty, and staff to create their own mobile app.

The challenge, which will offer $10,000 to the winning app, is being offered in collaboration with UChicago Tech and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship.

Organizers hope that changes to the rules and contest length will encourage more U of C students, faculty, and staff to submit entries.

Last year’s contest, which asked students to design a U of C–related app, received 18 entries, according to Cornelia Bailey, a user experience consultant in IT Services. This year, submitted apps do not necessarily have to be related to the University. Participants will have access to the City of Chicago databases, which will enable them to create City of Chicago–based apps.

“When we did the first Mobile App Challenge, we kept it UChicago-based. Had we not, I think we could have gotten more entries,” Bailey said. “This year, the sky’s kind of the limit.”

While last year’s challenge lasted from March to May, this year’s first round of judging will take place in December, when the pool will be narrowed down to 10-12 entries. Between December and March, UChicago Tech Services will be testing the applications with non-official judges chosen among students, faculty, and staff.

In March, the remaining entries will be matched with programmers from IT Services, who will help participants build the apps by designing the basic text and programming functions. Finalists will present their apps in front of a panel of judges at the New Venture Challenge at the Booth School of Business in May, where the winners will be announced.

“Since it’s going to be a year-long process, we wanted to give an incentive for participation,” said University Tech associate project manager Cristianne Frazier (Ph.D. ’11) said. “We want to see fresh ideas and hopefully more entries from faculty and staff.”

Bailey said that IT Services would not try to market or develop the winning app unless the team behind the app wanted to.

“We will [respect] the person’s property; their level of intensity and enthusiasm will take them somewhere else.”

IT Services hosted the first of a series of workshops to help prepare competitors on October 23; the next workshop will take place on November 5 at the TechBar in the Regenstein Library.