Student-developed apps win scholastic challenge

Published by adviser, Author: Kelsey Phillips - Rocket Contributor, Date: April 16, 2015
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Three SRU entries placed in the mobile and web categories in the Future POS Second Annual Scholastic Challenge at Butler County Community College on Saturday, April 11.

Future POS is a point of sale software design company specializing in the hospitality industry and judged local high school and college student entries on creativity, difficulty, graphics and user interface. This year, Future POS continued to award scholarship money to all category winners.

First place in the mobile and web categories received $3,000, second place received $1,500 and third place received $750. Future POS has also offered participants paid internships that have led to full-time positions in the previous competition.

SRU’s Computer Science Department students have consistently ranked in the top three for both the mobile and web categories.

The winning app in the mobile category, Common Squirrel Runner, was designed by SRU students William Botzer, Zachary Petrusch and Steven Zamborsky with guidance from Mr. Hongbo (Bernie) Zhou, associate professor of computer science.

common squirrel
Click the image to download “Common Squirrel Runner” from the Google Play Store.

“The game features a squirrel who runs indefinitely up trees dodging a variety of obstacles which include bee hives, bird houses, forest fires and poisonous mushrooms,” Zamborsky, a junior computer science major and information technology minor said.

While brainstorming ideas for a game, the team was following the parody Twitter account Common Squirrel, which ultimately led to the squirrel being the main character of their app.

“We discussed adding mechanics to make this a more full-fledged game such as the obstacles,” Zamborsky said. “We really liked that the concept could be targeted at all ages and decided that the game’s learning curve should be as short as possible to ensure that people of all ages could enjoy it.”

Winning first place in the web category was Ronald O’Dell, Eric McAlpine and Jacob Dunn with their personal financial tracking application, “Wallet.” Wallet allows users to input their spending habits and produces a line chart so one can visualize their spending trends over time, team member senior computer science major and information technology minor, Ronald O’Dell, said.

After SRU won first place last year, the team was motivated to make sure it happened again, according to O’Dell.

“We want it to be something we never lose,” he said.

Senior computer science major and member of the web team Eric McAlpine also shares his team’s hope that SRU continues to take home the gold in the Future POS competition.

“We really enjoy working as a team and developing software beyond the classroom, as it really enforces what we learn, as well as allows us to learn so much more,” McAlpine said. “I feel that SRU’s Computer Science Department is encouraging students to live up to a higher standard and making [winning the competition] a very reachable goal,” he said.

Although the competition has ended, the team plans to continually make improvements on the app by expanding the length of the tracking, adding prediction software and implementing an achievement system to “game-ify” the app and keep users motivated to improve their finances, McAlpine said.

Nic Hawley, a freshman computer science major, entered the competition independently and won second place for the mobile category developing a “fast-paced platformer for Android devices,” he said. The project took about a month to create and the next step is to make it available on the app store, Hawley said.

As far as other projects he is working on post-competition, Hawley is working with the Oculus Rift and Unity Engine software on immersive games and utility applications, he said.

Common Squirrel Runner is available to download on the Google Play Store

While some of the team members will be graduating this spring, they still want to see the Future POS competition become a staple of SRU’s Computer Science Department, according to O’Dell.

“New ideas for next year are already being discussed and planned, and recruits to fill our spots are being scouted,” he said. “I want to see SRU take first for many years to come.”

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