Yisu Zheng / Sun Staff Photographer

A student shows off his design during last week's Bits on Our Minds expo.

April 24, 2018

Students Win Awards for Apps Meant to Aid Prospective Students, Provide Fitness Information

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Three student teams from Cornell AppDev won awards last week for designs presented at the annual Bits on Our Minds expo, a showcase for student digital technology projects. The winning apps were the fitness app UpLift, a bus system aid called Ithaca Transit and CU Here, an app for finding campus events.

BOOM partnered with corporate sponsors such as Amazon, Bank of America, Disney, EY and Capital One to provide cash prizes and trophies to student teams. Awards were based on “novelty, execution, quality of engineering, performance, difficulty, social benefits, presentation, and usefulness,” according to the BOOM website.

The UpLift team won the a16z award, the Ithaca Transit team won the EY and Amazon awards, and the CU Here team won the Bank of America award.

According to team leader Tina He ’19, the UpLift app aims to provide a “central hub for all fitness resources and options at Cornell” and promote a more active lifestyle in general.

“We decided to make it because we see an increasing demand for a healthy and active lifestyle on college campus, and the existing CFC website is hard and difficult to navigate,” He said. “Students here are busy and stressed, and we want to make staying active easier and more rewarding.”

The a16z award from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz comes with a cash prize of $750, and, according to He, the UpLift team impressed judges with the app’s user experience and promising market potential.

In an email to The Sun, He said that, in the future, the team hopes to “incorporate all aspects [of] fitness into the app — from dietary suggestions to curated fitness resources — and eventually create a community with a shared passion of staying active and healthy.”

The Ithaca Transit team hoped to improve on the usability of one of the more bewildering aspects of life in Ithaca: the TCAT bus system. According to team leader Matthew Barker ’19, a bus app was a highly requested project from students.

“With features like live tracking and updates, powerful search, and custom favorites, Ithaca Transit provides the best experience for anyone to navigate the TCAT bus service,” Barker told The Sun.

The Ithaca Transit team pitched a prototype last year at BOOM that Barker described as “buggy,” but after a year’s worth of hard work they won both the EY and Amazon awards, and a total of $1500.

Barker said they will put the money toward marketing for the app, which in the future will integrate real-time bus alerts, custom messaging and a host of other features. They have also expressed interest in making an Android-supported app in the future.

The CU Here team won the Bank of America award for aiding the plight of wandering droves of pre-freshmen during Cornell Days. According to team leader Serge-Olivier Amega ’19, the app was designed to give prospective students a better idea of life on campus.

“With this app, users can view upcoming events as well as navigate the campus by seeing nearby locations with augmented reality,” Amega said.

Amega cited the app’s easy-to-use interface for browsing events and locations for the team’s success. In the future, the team members hope to expand the app for use within the general student population and show many campus events on the app.

“We plan on having general Cornell-related events display on the app and adding additional features to improve the campus exploration experience,” Amega told The Sun.

In addition to the award-winning apps, Daniel Li ’19, AppDev president, highlighted other projects like Pollo, an in-class activity and polling platform, and Recast, a podcast sharing app.

The AppDev team’s most widely used product on campus is the Eatery app, which connects students to dining hall hours and menus. Eatery launched just over two years ago and, according to Li, has over 4,000 monthly users.

“With each app, our ultimate goal is to have it be useful for students and people around the world, starting with Cornell,” Li said in an email to The Sun. “We’ve had success with Eatery, and now we’re expanding it to these other areas as well.”