Good Ideas Welcome in the UChicago Mobile App Challenge

“There’s an app for that” wasn’t just a marketing phrase coined by Apple a few years ago; it’s pretty much a true statement by now. People use smart phones for all kinds of things, but if you have your own idea for a new app, the University of Chicago Mobile App Challenge wants to help you build it. And you don’t even have to be a programmer.

The App Challenge, sponsored by the University of Chicago IT Services, the Office of Technology and Intellectual Property and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship, is offering a $10,000 prize for the best mobile app idea. The contest is open to all faculty, students and staff at the university.

Cornelia Bailey, a user experience consultant for IT Services, said the contest is part of an effort to consolidate expertise about mobile development at the university, but all you need to enter is a good idea.

“We’re trying to cast our net as far and wide as possible over the university to get people’s ideas for mobile apps,” she said. “Most people can’t program their own ideas, so we’ve built a lot of support into the contest for anyone who wants to enter.”

Entrants can submit their pitch by filling out a short questionnaire about what the app does, who will use it, how it will benefit those users and what makes it unique from similar apps. Ideas can come from any field, from science and research tools to business and entertainment. The best entrants will be chosen to participate in a series of workshops during the winter quarter to document a prototype for the app. After the prototyping phase, three finalists will be paired with programmers to develop as much of the application as possible before final judging at the Chicago Booth New Venture Challenge on May 30, 2012.

This is the second Mobile App Challenge. Last year’s competition was won by Matthew Krisiloff, an undergraduate who developed a system to help students trade unused guest meal credits at campus dining halls. Second place went to Melissa Gilliam, MD, MPH, Professor of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Pediatrics, for her platform to help guide patients’ contraceptive decisions as they wait for appointments at family planning centers.

The deadline to enter this year’s contest is December 7, 2012. Bailey said they expect up to 100 entrants, but the best part of the contest is that you don’t have to win to benefit from it.

“If you get to the pitch phase, that means you’ve thought something through. If you get through the prototype phase, you have something you could clearly and easily take to someone for programming. If you get through the programming phase, you have the beginning of a finished product, and a way to seek more funding,” she said. “It’s designed so that anyone who participates will get something out of it.”

About Matt Wood (531 Articles)
Matt Wood is a senior science writer and manager of communications at the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences Division.
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