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Students present ideas at App Fair

| Thursday, April 20, 2017

Eight teams of students presented various apps they designed and created as part of the Notre Dame App Club’s second annual App Fair on Wednesday night.

Senior Nick Pellegrino, president of the App Club, said the event and the club came about last year as a means of drawing attention to students’ ideas and giving them an opportunity to develop these ideas.

“The big thing that we were going for when we started was that we wanted to have an organization that would bring all these various side projects that students are working on into the main light,” he said. “Because a lot of people just do these projects on the side and don’t really get much credit or recognition for it, so our club was trying to bring that into the present.”

The eight teams produced a variety of concepts, Pellegrino said, which ranged from an app to organize pickup sports games to a mental health support app.

“We got quite a wide variety in terms of scope,” he said. “There are apps that are localized to the Notre Dame community, and then other ones that are trying to blow up into big businesses and stuff like that.”

This creativity came as a result freedom given to the participants, Pellegrino said.

“During the year, you might’ve heard about the ND App Challenge or these hack-a-thons … but the thing is, they’re all centered around a central theme or idea,” he said. “What I wanted with this event is just to have no theme or idea. I don’t want to have people directing their ideas toward something that I want to see or something like some sort of goal. Although they’re usually benevolent goals, at the end of the day I didn’t want to stifle that creativity.”

The judges awarded first place — along with a $250 gift card — to the team made up of senior Jackson Jhin, junior John Joyce and junior Rob Simari. Their app, Float, is a “peer-to-peer insurance network” that connects people who purchase tickets to an event with a “backup” buyer in order to ensure a partial refund if the original purchaser is unable to attend the event.

“Insurance, basically, on tickets right now is a scam,” Simari said. “So we wanted to provide an alternate way of doing that. … So we have an insurance buyer and a discount buyer.”

While last year’s event gave each team a time slot to present their app in front of the fair’s judges and attendees, Pellegrino said the App Club wanted to allow for more hands-on judging this year with a science fair setup in which judges could test the apps themselves.

“This time we wanted to have a much more fluid, kind of more dynamic [event and] have people kind of walk around, get a sense and feel from everybody here,” he said. “ … We just wanted something where people just come in, drop by for a minute if they wanted to, see what they want and go on with their schedules.”

Pellegrino said he hopes all participants gained valuable insight from the process of creating an app and receiving feedback on their work.

“The main point is just to get these students’ work out there and get some recognition — and also some good feedback,” he said. “We have a number of experienced entrepreneurs here, as well, so they’ve been offering feedback on … the projects.”

Simari said he appreciates the opportunity to develop and present his app in front of his peers and experienced professionals.

“People at Notre Dame are the people who have an itch to solve a problem,” he said. “I think that’s just who most of us are, and I think we’re always solving problems, but this is a way for us to show what we’ve done. I think that we’re already solving problems, but just giving us an avenue to speak to people in industry and get feedback is a really valuable experience. I think the App Club does exactly that.”

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About Courtney Becker

Courtney is a senior from New York City majoring in film, television and theater with a minor in journalism, who recently wrapped up her year as Editor-in-Chief. She is a former resident of Pasquerilla West Hall and a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

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