Each spring, teams of students will develop mobile software applications and the business models needed to prepare them for the marketplace in the Mobile App Challenge (MAC), an educational and entrepreneurial program run on three of our campuses. The program epitomizes several core CITRIS values: a multi-disciplinary approach, entrepreneurship, innovation, and a dedication to bringing academic insights to bear on real-world societal challenges.
Four months of mentorship, classes, lab access, and colloquia will fuel the entrepreneurial crash-course. The program will culminate in May, when competing teams will pitch their apps in a public forum and cash prizes will be awarded to the winners. Launched at UC Merced in 2011, the program first spread to Berkeley then Davis. This past year, 50 teams from all three schools applied to the program.
Several teams have gone on to launch their ventures. A 2014 winner, WattTime, started out as an app to help users reduce their carbon footprints by identifying the “cleanest” aka best times of day to use electrical energy. The startup recently won a contract with eMotorWerks to enable the company’s 240-volt EV charger to map out the cleanest times of day to charge electric cars.
Among this past year’s winners was Stock Up, a mobile app that helped students create and share healthy and affordable grocery lists and recipes on social media. Snapily, another food-oriented app, allowed users in low-income neighborhoods to order fresh and healthy food. For Todor Tzolov, the leader of the Snapily team, a highpoint of MAC was his face-to-face time with Snapily’s mentor, Garrett Moon, a designer at Pinterest. “It was: refine, refine, refine. There are so many unexpected challenges in putting something like this together. You can’t know until you actually do it,” said Tzolov.
The UC Merced Mobile App Challenge kicks-off at 6:00 pm on Thursday, January 21 in SSB160.
The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute drive interdisciplinary innovation for social good with faculty researchers and students from four University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz – along with public and private partners.
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