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Student hackathon winners plan future for Northwestern mobile app

The+Northwestern+App+won+the+%242%2C000+grand+prize+at+RedesigNU%2C+a+24-hour+hackathon+on+April+25+and+26.+The+mobile+app+includes+a+digital+WildCARD+and+mobile+friendly+CAESAR+access%2C+among+other+services.
The Northwestern App won the $2,000 grand prize at RedesigNU, a 24-hour hackathon on April 25 and 26. The mobile app includes a digital WildCARD and mobile friendly CAESAR access, among other services.

The Northwestern App won the $2,000 grand prize at RedesigNU, a 24-hour hackathon on April 25 and 26. The mobile app includes a digital WildCARD and mobile friendly CAESAR access, among other services.

Source: Northwestern App screenshot

Source: Northwestern App screenshot

The Northwestern App won the $2,000 grand prize at RedesigNU, a 24-hour hackathon on April 25 and 26. The mobile app includes a digital WildCARD and mobile friendly CAESAR access, among other services.

Katherine Richter, Reporter

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After a comprehensive Northwestern mobile app was awarded the grand prize in Associated Student Government’s RedesigNU: hackathon event last weekend, the app’s two student creators are moving forward with the initiative in an effort to make their idea a reality.

Weinberg sophomore Eric Brownrout and McCormick sophomore Matt Ehinger created an updated version of the NU app and the pair now aims to integrate the app into campus technology.

“In 24 hours, you’re just forced to build something,” Brownrout said. “The time crunch gives you a really good experience. The theme, RedesigNU, spoke out to me personally because there’s a lot of room for us to innovate.”

Seventy NU students competed in the 24-hour competition, which ran from April 25 to 26.

The existing NU app includes event listings, campus maps and the university directory. Brownrout and Ehinger noticed missing capabilities, including a “digital WildCARD,” which was added to replace the “dated” WildCARD, and mobile-friendly CAESAR access.

The pair received the most positive feedback for their ability to integrate those two aspects of the NU experience into their creation.

Brownrout said during the competition, he took on the roles of creating the user interface and design, as well as the interactive prototype on the website. Ehinger handled writing the code for the app and developing the software. The pair combined their respective parts of the project when they found free time from their other responsibilities.

“The idea would be if we could implement an app with one or two of these features, we can branch out and start to build a vision for the app,” Brownrout said.

Newly-elected ASG president Julia Watson said she was impressed with Brownrout and Ehinger’s innovation during the event.

“Their Northwestern app solves multiple problems,” the Weinberg junior said. “It wasn’t just solving one problem with some of the stuff we have on campus.”

Brownrout and Ehinger said they are open to collaborating with other student developers who are interested in building a team to execute the app.

“We would like to turn this into a reality,” Brownrout said. “We still have to figure out what the best course of action is to do that.”

The competition also included a student voting portion, where eight finalists were chosen to be voted on campus-wide, and the winners selected were also given monetary prizes. Voting for the student choice awards closed by Monday after being open for one week. Brownrout and Ehinger placed third behind the “Census” and “One Day in Chicago” apps. “Course DJ,” “Course Connect,” “Easy Plan,” “Chalkboard Love” and “Purpl.io” were also finalists.

Watson said students’ votes served as crucial input in engaging the community with the hackathon projects.

“We wanted to make sure it wasn’t just the judges picking,” Watson said. “Students could vote on something they think is most effective.”

ASG services vice president Christina Kim said she hopes to make the hackathon an annual event.

“I think bringing innovation and entrepreneurship to Northwestern is essential,” the McCormick sophomore said. “A lot of design and thought was put into this.”

The programming duo said they are focusing on their current app before expanding to other projects.

“I think we both have a handful of other ideas that we’re putting on the backburner right now,” Brownrout said. “If you can build something that can actually make people’s lives easier, then that’s the step one.”

Email: katherinerichter2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @krichter_medill

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