Students Launch into Mobile App Development

Apr 19 2010

Ready. Aim. Launch hippopotamus.

Hippo Blast, a game for iPhone in which the player shoots a cartoon hippo from a cannon to see how far it will go, won first place and $10,000 at the second annual Omniture iPhone App Competition, hosted by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the Marriott School of Management. The app, created by Reed Olsen, a second-year master of information systems student from Weston, Mass., and Christopher Martin, a senior studying psychology from Moreno Valley, Calif., garnered more downloads and views than the other 12 student-created apps in the competition.

"We wanted to make a simple, fun game that could be played over and over again," Olsen says. "Most importantly, we wanted to keep people coming back. Lots of our users keep playing because they are anxious to beat their friends' scores."

Teams of one to three students started preparing their apps in February and posted them on the Internet in March. Using Omniture software, the popularity of each app was tracked by the number of downloads and how often each user views the app. The number of daily unique users determined the winner of the competition. New to this year's competition were apps created for the Android platform in addition to those made for the iPhone and iPod touch.

During the three-week tracking period, Hippo Blast registered more than 1.5 million views. The app also registered among the top 100 free downloads in the Apple app store.

Rounding out the top competition apps were SkiFree; Pizza Promo Codes - "Dinner & a Movie"; and MicroKart Evolved, winning $5,000, $2,500, and $1,000, respectively. The Tipping Bucket took home the audience choice award and an iPad for each team member.

Organizers say the competition gives students a chance to practice both programming and marketing skills in a practical environment.

"This competition is great for students because it's a real entrepreneurial experience," says Mike Denny, a senior studying information systems from Vista, Calif., and competition student organizer. "It takes great creative ability and work ethic to progress from idea to application in such a short period of time."

The competition is part of a push at the Marriott School to focus on opportunities in up-and-coming areas of technology like mobile app development. In addition to hosting the iPhone App Competition, one of the first of its kind in the country, the Marriott School also offers a mobile app development class.

The nature of mobile devices creates a more personal interaction between the user and a developer or marketer than other forms of computing because a mobile device is always with the user, says Stephen Liddle, academic director of the CET and professor of information systems who teaches the course. Mobile devices are also frequently aware of the user's location, allowing the app to deliver a more relevant experience.

"One of the things that the Rollins Center is very interested in is helping our students, not just in the Marriott School but across campus, have access to the technological background that they need to do well in today's economy," Liddle continues. "We want to prepare our students to not just be workers in an online connected world but be leaders who are able to manage that world and guide it."

BYU iPhone App Competition Entries:

         - Circle of Friends (iPhone): A social-networking utility showing relationships of users in steps

       - The Crush App (iPhone): A utility allowing users to input names to see the "crush potential" of the two names

       - Hangin' Around (iPhone): A hangman style game in which the player saves a monkey from a crocodile

       - Hippo Blast (iPhone): A game allowing the player to see how far he or she can shoot a hippopotamus from a cannon

       - The Liahona (iPhone): A map and compass app pointing the user to the nearest LDS chapel or temple

       - MicroKart Evolved (iPhone): A 3-D racing game through city streets

       - MyStatBox (iPhone): A utility allowing the user to keep track of basketball statistics for individual players

       - RedBox & Pizza Promo Codes – "Dinner & a Movie" (iPhone and Android): A utility that gives up-to-date promotion codes to use for discounts on pizza and movies

       - Padlock (iPhone): A game requiring the player to open a combination lock by ear or using clues

       - SkiFree (iPhone): A recreation of the classic Windows 3.1 game of the same name

       - Tipping Bucket (iPhone): A utility facilitating small donations to a variety of causes

       - Whack-A-Face (Android): A whack-a-mole style android game that allows the user to hit friends' faces

       - Word Tap (iPhone): A Boggle-style game requiring the players to form words from a grid, scoring more points for longer words

The Marriott School is located at Brigham Young University, the largest privately owned, church-sponsored university in the United States. The school has nationally recognized programs in accounting, business management, public management, information systems, entrepreneurship, and recreation management and youth leadership. The school's mission is to prepare men and women of faith, character and professional ability for positions of leadership throughout the world. Approximately 3,300 students are enrolled in the Marriott School's graduate and undergraduate programs.

Contact Joseph Ogden (801) 422-8938
Writer: Dustin Cammack