SparTap creators take home grand prize at SJSU NFC 24 Hour Hackathon

by Feb 18, 2013 5:44 pm

The winners of SJSU’s 24-Hour Near Field Communication (NFC) Hackathon competition, a contest in which teams were required to design their own smartphone application, are enjoying their first place win and have begun planning where they want to see their app go in the future.

The winning team of the competition, which took place from Nov. 30-Dec. 1 of last year in the Student Union, was made up of five SJSU students: Kevin Wick, Brian Orlando, Klarence OuYang, Trevor Nemanic and Calvin Keith, according to Brian Orlando, a senior management information systems major.

"After the contest, we decided as a group we wanted to keep going with this, just to see what we could do," said Wick, a senior entrepreneurship major. "Some of the faculty have said that they'd be willing to adopt this if we get it working."

Orlando said a few engineering and computer science majors who made up one of the teams at the hack competition showed interest in working with them on the app now that the contest is over, so "now our team's a little bigger than it initially was."

In addition to the new members joining their team from the hack competition, Eric Castro, a computer science major, is also working with them by taking charge of the computer science majors of the team and ensuring that they're coding correctly, according to Orlando.

"So far we're just talking to the business school and we're running some trial tests … but if we get a working product we'd be happy to give it to the school," Wick said.

The determination of whether or not the school would adopt their app would be in control of the technology committee, so the team would have to present their product to the committee in order to have it approved for school-wide usage, according to Wick.

"The company Kovio, the sponsor of this event, is interested in helping us commercialize so they're going to give us the resources we need to make this an actual working app for the school," Wick said. "We are going to take this to the next level."

Once they have their finished product, they will be able to decide whether or not they want to try to sell it to other schools, according to Wick.

"There's really a lot we can do with the technology after we have it finished," Wick said. "But our immediate goal is to get it working for the school, and then to give it to the school to use."

Wick said if they were to sell their app in the future, they would consider selling it to FourSquare, the CSU system, or to an app store directly.

"We've kind of thought of a number of routes we could take to commercialize this, and we're open to most of them." Wick said.

According to Orlando, each team had 24 hours to make an app using a technology called NFC that would help solve a problem of their choice at SJSU.

“We switched our idea at like midnight,” Orlando said. “It’s called a gamification app. What we wanted to do was encourage students to attend events on campus. We wanted to reward students for checking into these events so they’d be able to use their phone to check in, then they’d get a point for that.”

Orlando said the idea of gamification is to turn something that is normally boring into something exciting, or have someone do something that one wouldn't normally do, such as attend a lot of campus events, and then get rewarded for it.

One of the ideas behind their app was that eventually, students would accumulate enough points to redeem them for buying something at the bookstore or at a local restaurant such as La Victoria Taqueria, according to Orlando.

“Students would also be able to go onto the app to find events,” said Klarence OuYang, a senior management information systems major. “Also (it can be used) just to see past events and read their reviews and see if they’d want to go to a similar event next time, or if a club’s having an event regularly then they can read the reviews from other students and decide without having to make that time commitment.”

Kevin Wick, a senior entrepreneurship major and leader of the winning team, said he believes all phones will be equipped with NFC technology, or tapping technology, within the next two years, and its abilities will extend far from what they are now.

“Your phone is going to become like your access card to everything,” Wick said. “You can already do this, you can for example pay for a cup of coffee at Starbucks by just tapping your phone instead of using your credit card. But only four phones out there right now can do this. Soon it’s going to be all the phones, but this is just coming out.”

According to Wick, Google, Samsung, Motorola, and Blackberry are the current carriers of phones that are equipped with NFC technology.

Orlando said NFC technology is the type of technology used in the Samsung Galaxy S3, where a chip embedded in the phone allows photos to be shared between phones with a single tap.

“There’s a receiver and a chip, and when they tap, something happens: an interaction,” Orlando said. “So that’s kind of what the technology is.”

Wick said the utilization of that technology made up part of the contest’s criteria since the contest’s sponsor was a chip maker for NFC technology.

“The sponsor was Kovio, which makes these chips,” Wick said. “They were the ones also donating the prize money, so they of course wanted the technology to be used during the competition.”

The winning team stayed overnight in the Student Union, during which they created not only a working product, but a business plan demonstrating how they would make money from the app, according to Wick.

“The time constraints and the criteria were really what made it such a cool thing,” Wick said.

Although their team was able to complete the competition successfully, many of their competitors were unable to meet the requirements of the contest and eventually left before the 24 hours were over, according to Wick.

“It started out with like 80 people, and then they started dropping like flies,” Wick said. “A lot of people realized that they were not going to finish in 24 hours. If you don’t have a working product you have nothing to present to the judges, or after they ran the numbers maybe their project wasn't going to make any money because it was also a business competition.”

The grand prize was a $1,000 check for the team in addition to an NFC-enabled smartphone by Motorola for each of the winning team members, according to Orlando.

OuYang said it would make him happy just to know that this app is being used since he would have helped create something that has a worthwhile purpose and helps solve the widespread problem of increasing campus event attendance.

“I know that a lot of students don’t show up to certain events and then there’s wasted money, so (the app) would benefit both the school and other students,” OuYang said. “(The competition) was a great experience, not all of the participants need to be programmers. I would encourage more students to be a part of those types of events in the future.”


2 thoughts on “SparTap creators take home grand prize at SJSU NFC 24 Hour Hackathon

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