App Competition Open to Wayne State Students, Faculty, Alumni

3/24/14Follow @XconomyDET

Blackstone LaunchPad, a Wayne State University program funded by the New Economy Initiative and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation that offers resources and guidance to student entrepreneurs and inventors, is on a mission to spur the creation of apps.

The LaunchPad is teaming up with the university’s office of economic development in a new competition open to students, faculty, staff, and alumni that challenges participants to create apps for iOS, Android, or the Web that are relevant to the university community. At stake is $5,000 in cash prizes sponsored by Detroit Labs and the Detroit Technology Exchange: $2,500 for first place, $1,500 for second place, and $1,000 for third place. The LaunchPad will also work with interested teams to get their apps to market after the competition.

Jeri Stroupe, a senior program administrator for WSU’s office of economic development, says the idea for the competition had been kicked around for at least a year as a way to solve problems and help improve campus life.

Stroupe points out the university has shuttles circling campus that students can track through GPS on the university’s general app, but the shuttle locations are all a student can access. Stroupe imagines the competition will inspire ideas like a better shuttle app that tells students shuttle locations, estimated wait times, and more.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity for students to focus on that problem, and we also wanted to make this a broader opportunity for students to think about other problems and challenges on campus and make apps that are useful to students and faculty,” Stroupe says.

The competition’s app-building teams are required to have at least one current Wayne State University student, but organizers hope that faculty and alumni will pair with students to bring their app ideas to fruition. The university plans to host a matchmaking event in April to facilitate the creation of these hybrid student-alumni teams.

Stroupe says organizers will announce that they’ve extended the April 4 registration deadline soon. Teams have until May 30 to turn in their app proposals; judges including Adrian Fortino from Invest Detroit and Detroit Labs co-founder Nathan Hughes will announce the winners on June 13.

Competition organizers are happy with the ideas already trickling in so far, Stroupe says, like an app that syncs with a student’s class schedule so it can silence the student’s phone during lectures, or an app that allows students to connect and establish study groups or reserve rooms at the library.

“We’re pleased with the interest, but we would absolutely like to drum up more,” Stroupe adds. “It’s not just for students—anyone with a connection to Wayne State University can participate. It’s a great opportunity to collaborate and make a viable mobile app to improve the Wayne State experience.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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