LectureHop: There’s An App For That

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Bwog Tech Extraordinaire, Bijan Samareh, headed over to DevFest to report on all the student innovations that came out of last week’s event. To see who the winners were, check out the Application Development Initiative website.

Behind every iPhone game or restaurant search engine is a team of entrepreneurial programmers who work tirelessly to make functional and appealing software. For those who wish to avoid large companies and work intimately with their colleagues or friends, the “App” niche of start-up culture attracts many bright twenty somethings who not only know a thing or two about computers, but also carry skills in self-finance and design. This new trend in the tech world made its way to Columbia last year with the inception of DevFest— a week long application development program where students can develop an app and showcase it to industry professionals for rankings and prizes. Put together by the ADI (Application Development Initiative), the event is a prime opportunity for students to have their work evaluated. Saturday was the 2nd annual showcase, and almost twenty new apps made it to the stage.

Among the panelists were Fred Wilson— VC and Principal of Union Square Ventures, Dave Jagoda of Andreessen Horowitz, and Tarikh Korula of Uncommon Projects. All seasoned professionals in the field, they offered insight and suggestions into each of the apps presented. Chris Wiggins, Associate Professor of Applied Math at Columbia and Co-founder of HackNY, also judged entries, while Ryan Bubinski (CC ’11), Co-Founder of Codecademy, passed down fresh wisdom as a recent graduate who has found success in the app world.

Innovation and marketability set aside the apps that received recognition. It is not surprising that the ToDo Manager by Sid Nair— a convenient scheduler— took home first prize. Serving all the functions of a digital calendar along the lines of GCal, its novelty arises from a flexible system of deadline organization that differentiates between hard and soft deadlines. 2nd prize went to Omnify by Yufei Liu, which utilizes keyboard hotkeys in the sharing news articles via Gmail— making it easy for people to recommend good reads to their friends. Diana Lamdany, the third place contestant, really struck the college nerve with HelpRoom. The webcam-based program allows students and professors to participate in online office hours via an interface similar to Skype, eliminating the often unforeseen scheduling conflicts that usually get in the way of such meetings.

Other apps of interest include FreeSeat by Aditya Mukerjee— a seating chart generator with an algorithm that uses pre-specification to avoid pairing certain guests together while guaranteeing the pairing of certain guests. Mason Silber, Sidharth Shanker, and Zach Reitano grabbed the attention of the commuters in the audience through ParkAlly— a mobile app that allows drivers to post how long they are expecting to be parked in  a certain spot on a real-time map. When drivers want to leave, they can give digitally coordinate the selling of their spot to other drivers in need of one. The college environment was given due again by Trevor Marshall, Andrew Funcheon, Augusto Corvalan. Their mobile app BeerBattle coordinates the scheduling and teaming of drinking game teams at bars, while containing a system of rankings that encourages players to visit certain bars more often, thus increasing profits for bar owners.

Following the presentations, the panelists handed down advice to the aspiring as to how to break into the industry. The importance of both having and executing ideas was discussed at length, as well as the fast-paced and unpredictable nature of the industry itself. Twitter was even brought up by one of the panelists, who explained how the idea was originally developed, then scrapped, then brought back into fruition two years later. It was very compelling to hear the success stories of these self-starters who refused to work under big companies, which they found to be impersonal.

Sandwiches and soda both preceded and followed the event, as it should have given a three hour conference of tech talk in a dark auditorium. Nonetheless, it was inspiring to leave knowing that creativity and qualitative thinking are being combined in groundbreaking ways by those around us.

DevFest via ADICU

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  1. penthouse  


  2. penthouse suite  

    shoutout to our fellow penthouser mason for being a BALLER.

  3. but seriously..  

    Mason is the man

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