Sunday, 26 February 2012

College Students build mobile prototypes in four days

This week I was fortunate to be involved in a local mobile application development contest, sponsored by the Technology / Engineering Facuality at Conestoga College.  Under the careful direction of Ignac Kolenko, Chair, School of Eng and IT; “Ig” challenged his students to create and design working prototype in 4 days. A $10.00 gift certificate to a local coffee shop and Pizza served as inspiration to the teams (33 student’s) working day and night to produce some outstanding prototypes. 

RIM (Playbooks) and Communitech (resources, facilities and food) served as the primary sponsors for the inaugural event. Several volunteers at the College also chipped in over the 4 day reading break to ensure students had access to labs and resources.

The students were split into two groups: 

Group #1 - Blackberry/Playbook

RIM provided (and a few new Playbooks) links to HTML5 development on Blackberry/Playbook devices: 

     Group #2 – Embedded Device Solutions and Mobile Solutions using Android, Win Phone 7, etc.     
     Conestoga College provided access to:

·    Texas Instruments MSP430 Launchpad kits
·    Android development kits
·    Embedded devices / HCS12 devices
·    Renesas and 68HC08 kits

A few of the demos included:

Visitor Parking App - Visitors to the campus currently need to park, find the person they are visiting to obtain a yellow parking pass, and return to their car to hang the tag from the rearview mirror, which is very time consuming. The solution will allow a visitor to be already registered with Security on the day they are scheduled to arrive, and via the app, allow them to take a photo of their license plate and GPS current location, and be sent to security, so that security can match the plate with the visitor. Security will thus not ticket the vehicle based on the license plate.

Conestoga Grand River Transit (GRT) mobile App - The mobile app will assist students with dynamic bus schedules/routes to get to and from Conestoga College, taking advantage of the device's GPS capabilities. A web service is in place to feed the device with all the GRT data.

Conestoga Bookstore mobile App - The mobile app will allow students to view the books required by program and/or course. Also will have information and contact details about the Bookstore. The key to this project is that the Bookstore info needs to come from the corporate website (there's a web service in place to do this), as well as interfacing with the Bookstore web service to get the program, course, and book details.

Security for farms - Gate opens sensing. An SMS message is sent whenever a farm gate is opened; a different message is sent if the gate stays open too long.

Sump Pump Flood Detector - The embedded solution will detect an overflow from a sump pump that has failed to discharge collected water. The solution will use SMS to warn the homeowner that an imminent basement flood will occur without immediate servicing of the sump pump.

Most of the teams were able to provide a concise value prop of how their app would be used and what makes their solution unique. I was particular impressed with the collaboration between the teams to how they might improve their design.

As the keynote speaker at the contest showcase, the theme of my talk was to think big, take risk and lessons learned from failure.  For 33 students developing killer prototypes in less than a week – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Next week we’ll be calling all mobile developers (students and incubation / start-ups) Nationwide (Canada / USA). 

Theme: Build something that matters.

Mission: Create a working software solution on a mobile or web platform for a chance to win $25,000! (+ other prizes – TBA)

Task: Desire2Learn is challenging developers to shape the future of education by building apps that improve the experience of teachers, students and administrators

Platform: Open / D2L or Partner SDK

Contest rolls out March 07th

What are you going to build?
What would you do with $25,000?
What is the next big thing?

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