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Students build mobile apps in three day Boise State appathon

By Eryn Johnson and Ryan Hoffman

Computer science, computer engineers and graphic designers put their skills to the test over the weekend at Appathon 3, creating the latest in mobile apps.

Office of Information Technology [OIT], College of Business and Education and the College of Engineering at Boise State hosted the event.

The appathon put brains and endurance to the test. Pushed students to overcome mental obstacles and code their way to the top of the competition.

Participants were challenged with designing an app that could be useful to students and/or faculty at Boise State. The ideas ranged from localized chat rooms to a mobile teacher aid, from gamification (an educational gaming tool) and speed reading.

Students spent three days writing code in the ILC.


0 coffee, 0 monster, 0 soda, 0 Water

The coding marathon kicked off Friday night as students broke into teams and started coding for their applications at 5 p.m.

“People are gathered, they’re on their teams, they’re trying to negotiate what there is to do next,” said Shad Jessen, manager of communication and training for OIT.

Many had come with ideas in mind of what they wanted their weekend project to be. Most teams spent the first initial hours planning focus strategies (streaming Netflix or Pandora) and more importantly planning a game strategy, delegating who would do what and what the purpose of the app would be.

Students were broken into 16 teams creating 16 apps.

“We’re creating an app called ‘Localize’,” said Andrew Gable, Team Blue Crew, a junior at Boise State majoring in computer science. This is his third Appathon. “It’ll be a local chat [that] when you are at a current location, you [can] use it.”

Fellow teammates, Darrell Draney and Hank Gibson, senior computer science majors, and Chris Becker, senior graphic design major, were hard at work. While Draney updated the web server, Becker designed the app logo and animations using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

“We’re trying to make it look like a developer didn’t make it,” Becker explained.

Teams worked on the backend of their applications until the early in the morning.


11 coffees, 2 monsters, 18 sodas, 7 waters

Boise State appathon 2014Dawn broke; birds were singing and fauna pranced through campus basking in the morning glow—

“Is it even tomorrow?” Draney rubbed the lack of sleep from his eyes. It was 6 a.m. and no one was rising from IMG_20140309_102040157well rested sleep, even though the project was coming together. Two major components had been established, chairs had been flipped (out of excitement!), the Crew was running on caffeine fumes and the backend was mostly structured.

“Right now [the app] works, but it looks really default [in appearance],” Gibson admitted. Becker and Gibson worked on taking Becker’s design to the next level.

After breakfast, Blue Crew suffered from sleep deprivation and took a well needed break leaving Becker behind to hold down the fort.

As the day dragged on, pieces started to fall into place. By about 4 p.m., all of the Crew were slogging through layout issues, focusing on how the app looked and if it functioned.

Two hours later, after dinner, the team divided into two halves, one concentrating on design, the other on integration.

“We have all the pieces done, we just have to make them look good and put them together,” elaborated Draney.


50 coffees, 5 monsters, 39 sodas, 12 waters

“Last night was definitely a coffee night,” Becker said. “I stopped getting second winds after 1 a.m.”

The team slept sporadically through the night and, despite the time change, the app was functioning.

“The time changed at 2 a.m. and suddenly tomorrow got a lot closer,” Becker added.

The Localize application was a success. The team chose a user interface that was easy to understand, allowed users to see near-by destinations and happenings, and, true to the app’s goal, allowed users to join the conversation of near-by places.

“Couch potatoes can’t be social anymore,” Gable said. “We made an app that will make [interacting in] society better.”

Other teams in the competition weren’t so fortunate. After the 11 a.m. submission deadline, two teams dropped from the running, including team B.A.D. R.A.R.

“Failure is a good thing because you’ve got to fail in life. If you can’t fail, then you are a failure!” said Alberto Ruis, computer science major.

Despite being unable to present, the team considered it an educational experience.

Sunday afternoon left the remaining teams waiting for presentations and results.  Teams were given 5 minutes to present their weekend project.

At 3:20 p.m. the judges announced the results.

IMG_20140309_152200616First place winner, The Dark Wizards, was awarded $500 per team member, for their Necromancer game.

IMG_20140309_095240065Second place, Athena, claimed $250 for the eGamification app. Third,

The Blue Crew-Boise State appathon 2014The Blue Crew, took home $100 for Localization, they also received a prize of $250 for best design.

drinks soda Boise State Appathon 2014Downloading snacks now:

With every major event hosted by the university, there always begs the question of how to keep participants fed. For Appathon 3, Office of Information Technology Administrative Assistant Karen Toon was well aware of the nourishment needs of the nerds.

“We coordinate with [the sponsors]; they provide donations to us, and we go through the University Foundations,” explained Toon. “We have to pay for everything up front, and then we get reimbursed from the sponsors.”

But what exactly does this food consist of? Take a big breath, and prepare for the list of foodstuffs from just Friday night: 64 bags of chips, 6 packages of cookies, 12 packages of corn nuts, 2 cases of Nutri-Grain bars, 2 cases of granola bars, 5 packages of string cheese, a case of popcorn and about 12 packages of crackers. Not to mention small candies.

“Everything has to be individually wrapped,” Toon mentioned. “Chips and cookies [were] going the fastest.”

In addition to snackage, the OIT department coordinated with Aramark to bring in drinks of all kinds.

“We started off with 6 cases of water, 6 cases of soda, 3 cases of Monster Energy drink, 3 cases of VitaminWater plus beverages brought [over] for every meal. And 8+ gallons of coffee for every meal… and then a water cooler for hot water, just in case,” Toon added.

And what about all the food that gets left over at the end of the Appathon?

“The excess usually goes back to our office, and it’s open for employees, but there’s really not that much left over,” Toon conceded.