AT&T this week announced a winner in its Tech Valley Civic App Challenge, a two-month contest for local developers and designers to create the best civic-minded mobile apps.
Six winners – chosen from over 25 entries and more than 120 participants – were announced at a ceremony at the University at Albany. They received awards for their contributions to the “AT&T Tech Valley Civic App Challenge.” The grand prize winner was Russell Kirkwood, who took home $10,000 for his mobile app, Food Pantry Helper, which assists non-profit food pantries in managing operations. The Stillwater resident founded Creating Genius, a web design and computer programming firm in Saratoga Springs. He is also a co-director of the Stillwater Food Pantry. "I realized that we needed some type of software to help run our operation. So for a long time I was kinda had it in the back of my mind, but I didn't really act upon it. And when I heard about the AT&T Civic App Challenge approximately two and a half months ago, that kind was the catalyst to get me movin' and to get me goin' on this."
Any of the food pantries that operate in the Capital Region can download the free app, which includes services like client, inventory, grant, volunteer and donor tracking, while reducing the need for paper.
AT&T's New York State president Marissa Shorenstein says the telcom was thrilled with the quality and breadth of the apps produced by the Tech Valley participants. "The Tech Valley encompasses so many different and thriving organizations and demonstrates the vibrancy and the talents of the community across Tech Valley. We were thrilled with our partners, both academic and non-academic, who are working to collaborate on this initiative and on others, and it demonstrates that there's a clear demand for developers, both amateur and professionals, to create mobile apps that help our communities connect, build businesses and streamline our daily lives."
Kirkwood says he plans to put his contest winnings back into improving the app. Shorenstein says the proliferation of smartphones has exploded the market for apps. "More than ever we're seeing apps that can use information, data that's provided by governments, data that's provided by crowdsourcing and other data, that help to improve people's lives."
· Grand prize ($10,000): Food Pantry Helper, created by Russell Kirkwood of Stillwater, N.Y. This mobile web app assists non-for-profit food pantries manage their operations more efficiently and cost effectively to better service the community’s most fragile. It includes services such as client, inventory, grant, volunteer and donor tracking. In addition, the app reduces the need for paper, provides real-time data and reporting to management and compliance oversight entities, and provides an overall structure for a food pantry operation. The capital region alone has more than a thousand food pantry or food distribution type organizations. Demo video:
· Second place ($5,000): Electorate, created by Alex Muro (Albany, N.Y.) and Eric Krans (Altamont, N.Y.), is a social voting app that allows the user to search registered voters in New York State and see the elected officials of any voter. Additionally, it allows users to verify and link their voting record with their Facebook account to display their full voting record and history, see upcoming elections and endorse candidates. It also allows the user to see who their friends have endorsed, allowing them to get valuable information to take to the polls from people they know and trust. Demo video:
· Third place ($2,000): Snapmap, created by Dan Fenaughty (Palenville, N.Y.), Benjamin Conant (Vassar College alumni and resident of New York, N.Y.), Ayana Wilson (New York, N.Y) and Evan Torkos (New York, N.Y.). Snapmap is a mobile web app that helps New York state families get the most out of their SNAP benefits, the USDA's supplemental nutrition assistance program designed to ensure that all Americans, regardless of income level, can purchase and consume healthy food on a regular basis. Snapmap was created specifically for customers who pay for food using SNAP benefits and allows users to quickly locate SNAP accepting stores through a geolocating map interface, write reviews, view store hours, and filter through stores to discover healthy options. Demo video:
· Honorable mention ($500): Ant Hill, created by Marcella Jewell (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), Hunter Fortuin (Troy, N.Y.), Shane Boland (Troy, N.Y. ), Matt Barth (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), and Ethan Glass (Albany, N.Y.). The mobile web app provides a virtual place to find work or hire local, introducing a new way to connect young job seekers with small businesses on a local level, thus removing geographical barriers for both demographics. Ant Hill is designed to be a springboard for college students or create a lifestyle for career freelancers, while strengthening local economies and community bonds, improving employment rates, and introducing a way for businesses to hire with low-risk and low-cost. Demo video:
· Honorable mention ($500): Eventy, created by Jordan Dunne, Kiana McNellis, Aaron Gunderson, Trevor Phillippi, Devon Bernard and Rocco Del Priore all Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students, and Joseph Schiavone of Harvard University. The iPhone app locates community events near the user, informing them where and when the events are and even can assist with directions. The app scans the web to find hyper-local events and makes them easily viewable to attract more visitors for events happening at nearby community centers, businesses, museums, and more, and lists them in one convenient location for the user to find a variety of event opportunities in the Tech Valley. Demo video:
· Honorable mention ($500): Project Hunt, created by Jason Kuruzovich (Saratoga Springs, NY) and Hammad Ghuman (Latham, NY). The mobile web app helps connect hackers, makers, designers and students with projects that matter. Nonprofit organizations, startups business, and communities often have incredible project ideas that never get developed due to lack of technology or skills. This app brings these to the attention of the massive community of professional developers looking to expand their portfolio; instructors seeking real projects for students to gain experiential education; and leading institutions looking to apply their technology and IP resources. Demo video: