Islander Students Go Head-to-Head at Ideathon: Make an App, Make a Change

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – What would you do if you were given 24 hours to create an app that could impact the lives of your peers? The 2019 Modo Ideathon competition hosted at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi posed that exact question to Islander students. The weekend-long competition, held March 29-30, challenged students of all majors to take their ideas and create an app – no coding skills necessary. Their innovative designs tackled common topics on campus like time management, finding a tutor, or parking woes.

“Competitions like the Ideathon prepare Islander students to be globally competitive by equipping them with skill sets that increase proficiency in their interaction and consumption of knowledge, resulting in improved digital information literacy,” said Dr. Michelle Singh, Associate Vice President for Teaching & Learning Technologies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “These events align perfectly with the Quality Enhancement Plan the University has recently adopted which ensures that each student, regardless of discipline, will graduate with the ability to think critically when asking questions, find and evaluate digital information, and use that information in problem solving situations.”

An interdisciplinary team comprised of Nicole Rothenay, an English graduate student, and Judith Pope, a marine biology senior, won first place for their app called “EEZZ: Registration Without Frustration.” The team will have the opportunity to represent the Island University at the annual Kurogo Conference hosted at MIT this summer. This is the premier event for mobile technology in higher education, and Islanders will have the opportunity to compete against other universities that also participated in Modo Ideathon 2019, including Berkeley University of California and Florida State University, among others.  

“Coming together from different fields gave us an edge,” said Rothenay. “Our unique perspectives allowed us to target a problem that affects multiple students. It doesn’t matter if you’re an undergrad studying biology or a graduate student studying English – we all share registration frustrations.” 

According to Pope, the app they created is similar to Coursicle, a pre-existing app that allows students to look up classes based on a number of criteria – but EEZZ takes it a step further by providing users with a variety of potential schedules that are conflict-free.

“Oftentimes, registration can be tedious. Just knowing which courses are available isn’t enough to create the perfect schedule,” described Pope. “You could create plan ‘A’ and have a backup schedule, but there’s always times when a class conflicts with another class. It gets even more complicated when labs are an additional requirement.”

Pope and Rothenay met for the first time at the Ideathon pizza party held the first day of the competition. They were one out of a total of eight competing teams with two to five students in each team. During the initial meet-and-greet, the teams watched Modo Lab tutorial videos to learn the ins-and-outs of the app-building platform.

“The Ideathon representative was impressed that our students took the time to learn the platform and use the resources offered to them to enhance the quality of the work they were presenting,” said Aleyda Cantu-Lee, Office of Distance Education and Learning Technologies (ODELT) Instructional Consultant who co-organized the event, along with Denise Dougherty, IT Application Administration, Application Systems Administrator II . “We had a high caliber of participation.”

Prior to the competition, Pope and Rothenay had zero experience building an app. Pope, who was a member of the winning team for the recent competition Invent for the Planet, focused on creative design, marketing, and aesthetics. Rothenay, the technical guru, brainstormed the app’s framework.

“It was interesting to see how computer science and engineering students gravitated toward each other, but in the end, an interdisciplinary team won,” said Joseph Doan, ODELT Educational Technologist. “This mirrors the real-world, where you won’t always work with people in your field. Everyone has different strengths they bring to the table and having these unique perspectives makes a stronger product.”  

The competition was sponsored by the Division of Information Technology, Division of Research and Innovation, and Blackboard Inc.