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On Wednesday March 29th, we reached the culmination of a seven-month process related to this year’s Notre Dame App Challenge when we held our Final Four Presentation event at the Mendoza College of Business on the University of Notre Dame campus. The Notre Dame App Challenge is a first-ever event to give anyone on campus—students, faculty and staff—the chance to build their app from concept to reality, get real-world help refining their idea, and compete for over $10,000 in prizes. The Challenge started September 12th, 2016, and officially concluded this week. It was funded by the university and SAP provided orchestration and technical assistance throughout the process. I had the great privilege to serve as master of ceremonies for this final event and speak about SAP’s commitment to innovation and improving people’s lives.

Drawing from Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins’ charge to “advance our vision of Notre Dame as a powerful force to heal, unify, and enlighten our world”, ideas submitted for the Challenge built their ideas around one or more of these three goals. 

Challenge Structure 

The App Challenge operated on a three-round model. Round 1 was open to anyone at the main Notre Dame campus and involved the submission of over 80 ideas. A committee of judges from across campus selected 20 submissions to proceed to Round 2, which involved working with those chosen submissions to prototype and refine the app ideas. These 20 semi-finalist ideas received expert assistance from across campus in areas including user experience, interface design, intellectual property, technical feasibility and information security. One of SAP’s contributions to the challenge was to host a SAP Code Jam on November 1st to teach student teams how to prototype application ideas on the Hana Cloud Platform.

The final phase began earlier this calendar year when each team began work with Notre Dame student intern developers who were tasked with building a minimum viable app to realize the vision of each team. The final presentations included an overview of the service idea and a demonstration of the app itself. We were treated to four outstanding presentations and a distinguished panel of Notre Dame leaders picked the winners as follows:

  1. South Bend City Connect —an app idea created by graduate students Miriam Moore and Robbin Forsyth that aims to reduce the additional cost of poverty by integrating South Bend City services and assistance with financial education, low-cost banking resources and electronic utility payments into a powerful tool to aid in financial self-sufficiency.

  2. What’s Up Doc — created by undergraduate students Christopher Boldt, Sang Jun Park, Patrick Lacher and Paul Kozhipatt, this app seeks to improve mental health by providing users with treatment reminders, a daily mental health feedback survey that plots changes over time, and connects patients with those treating them.

  3. ZEBRA (Zebras Eliminating Barriers through Rare Advocacy), created by undergraduate students Katherine Inskeep, Anna Volk, William Langbo, and Kimberly Trochuck, the ZEBRA app aims to create a cohesive community of people suffering from “zebras,” a term used to identify rare diseases.

  4. Bargain Books — created by undergraduate students Mitchell Kokko, Brock Gallagher and Devyn Spruell, this app helps students with qualified financial aid to obtain textbooks and school supplies through the bookstore in a secure and discreet manner, so that they may have an equal opportunity to succeed in the classroom.

It was a terrific event and produced four wonderful stories of Notre Dame students being a Force for Good in four distinct communities by leveraging technology innovation.

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