Mobile App Challenge offers innovators a chance to develop their ideas into real-world apps

The UChicago App Challenge is now open to any and all ideas from faculty, staff and students for mobile applications.

Back for a third year, the app challenge is run by IT Services, The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship, and UChicagoTech to give participants the chance to develop ideas while addressing a real problem or need.

“The app challenge has contributed to the overall environment of innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the University,” said Klara Jelinkova, senior associate vice president and chief information technology officer. “With all the great ideas circulating around this campus, the app challenge has given people without technical training a chance to join a team and create an app with high value to the entire community.”

The winning team gets $10,000 from UChicagoTech, and all the finalists get to develop a prototype of their apps for the judging at the New Venture Challenge in May.

Benjamin Lemelman with his app, My Roots, during the announcement of the winners of the 2013 Mobile App Challenge. Photo by Avi Schwab SB '03

Benjamin Lemelman with his app, My Roots, during the announcement of the winners of the 2013 Mobile App Challenge. Photo by Avi Schwab SB ’03

Past proposals have ranged from a system to tell a driver the speed limit, to a market that matches students with research opportunities, to an app that introduces hungry people on campus to students with extra money on their meal plans.

Last year more than 100 teams submitted ideas for mobile apps, which were whittled down to three finalists. The Division of Biological Sciences was well represented among last year’s finalists, with each team tackling a weak point in medicine.

“We entered the Mobile App Challenge with the broad goal of improving the emergency department discharge process,” said David Beiser, assistant professor in medicine and an emergency room physician. The app, called “HealthSpotr,” gives patients a clearer understanding of their diagnoses and treatment plans following emergency department discharge. 

“The app challenge provided us with a framework for sharpening this goal into a needs statement and developing prototypes,” he said.

HealthSpotr won first prize, and is still being developed and tweaked. The team now plans to test the effectiveness of their app in the Comer Emergency Department.

“It was very satisfying to leverage mobile technology to address the needs of my patients,” Beiser said.

The other finalists created prototypes of “Video Protocols,” an app to remind medical professionals how to carry out various procedures, and “My History,” an app to help people give their doctor a full family medical history.

“Our aim with the app challenge is to identify and cultivate great ideas from across the University, while enhancing the overall learning experience for all participants,” Jelinkova said.

The first deadline for submitting an app idea is November 17. Information sessions and workshops will be held throughout the fall quarter.

– By Dianna Douglas

*Source: The University of Chicago

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