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2015 AT&T Tech Valley Civic App Challenge Announces Winners

AT&T Partnered with Area Universities, Businesses, and Technology Organizations to Challenge Local Developers to Create Smartphone Apps to Serve the Community

May 14, 2015
By Julie Tracy

Residents of the Tech Valley will now be able to turn to their smartphones for assistance with details on hard to find local events, locating regional nutritional safety net resources, information on local job opportunities, assistance with voting data, among other civically minded topics, thanks to the creativity and innovation that emerged from the 2015 AT&T Tech Valley Civic App Challenge.

The winners of the two-month “virtual hackathon” were announced May 14 by AT&T*, along with community partners including the University at Albany, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, TechConnex (an affiliate for Center for Economic Growth), Tech Valley Center of Gravity, Saratoga TechOUT, Hudson Valley Tech Meetup, New York BizLab, Beahive, Tech Valley Mobile Developers Network, Accelerate 518 and Hack Upstate.

The competition challenged local developers, entrepreneurs, designers, makers, and technologists to build intuitive and novel smartphone apps that address the societal and civic issues in the greater Tech Valley community. The competition aimed to connect and engage citizens with government and demonstrate how mobile technologies can lead to the next generation of tech jobs and investment.

The winners – chosen from over 25 entries and more than 120 participants – were announced at a ceremony at the University at Albany, at which developers demonstrated their winning apps. Cash prizes totaled more than $18,000 were awarded.

“The quality of mobile apps created through the AT&T Tech Valley Civic App Challenge demonstrates the vibrancy and talent of the Tech Valley’s technology and entrepreneurial community,” said Marissa Shorenstein, New York president for AT&T. "We applaud our partners at University at Albany, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Center for Economic Growth, Tech Valley Center of Gravity, Saratoga TechOUT, Hudson Valley Tech Meetup, New York BizLab, Beahive, Tech Valley Mobile Developers Network, Accelerate 518 and Hack Upstate for collaborating with us on an initiative that demonstrates clear demand for programmers, both amateur and professional, to create mobile apps that help our communities connect, build businesses and streamline our daily 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njd9KT7_R8A)
  • 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Flx1eXgU1Q.)
  • 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJytsepuIVI.)
  • 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIcc9dYHA4U
  • 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1y3uFUdWvk
  • 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bY7hdQuC3g&feature=youtu.be

"It is an honor to have my civic mobile app recognized by the esteemed judges, especially because there were so may innovative and inspiring submissions to the challenge,” said Russell Kirkwood, creator, Food Pantry Helper. “I’m so proud to help these giving organizations that service the most vulnerable members of our community and by winning the AT&T Tech Valley Civic App Challenge I will now be able to expand the app’s reach to even more food pantries throughout the Tech Valley to help them fulfil their missions more efficiently. I want to thank AT&T and all the partners involved in organizing this event and congratulate the other winners.”

The six winning apps addressed the challenge to solve local problems, resulting in globally applicable solutions that will provide lasting benefits for the Tech Valley. Challenge organizers were thrilled with the participation and submissions. Winners were chosen by a panel of judges made up of local tech experts, community stakeholders and elected officials, who based their decisions upon the apps’ potential impact on Tech Valley, execution and creativity or novelty. Judges included:

  • Hon. George A. Amedore, Jr., New York State Senator
  • Kishor Bagul, former chief Technology Officer, New York State
  • Antonio Civitella, president, New York BizLab and CEO, Transfinder
  • Jennifer Goodall, Ph.D. director at the College of Computing and Information Women In Technology Program and Informatics Undergraduate Program, University at Albany
  • Susan Lundberg, TechConnex committee member and president, Capital Tech Search
  • Hon. John T. McDonald III, New York State Assemblyman
  • Andrew Nicklin, Director, Open NY
  • Bryan O'Malley, Interactive Group Lead, Fingerpaint
  • Marissa Shorenstein, AT&T New York president
  • Daniel Stone, co-founder, Hudson Valley Tech Meetup and senior creative technologist, Evolving Media Network
  • Christine Tate, entrepreneur-in-residence, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and angel investor and Founder of Gunnafly, LLC
  • Thomas Tongue, president, Tech Valley Center of Gravity and CEO,  Zomega Terahertz Corporation
  • Scott Tillitt, founder of BEAHIVE and Antidote Collective and co-founder and Board Chair of Re>Think Local
  • Tim Varney, co-founder, Tech Valley Mobile Developers Network and director of Mobile Application Development, Troy Web
  • Ken Zalewski, manager of Application Development of the New York State and Troy City Council President Pro Tempore

“It was a great honor to serve as a judge of the AT&T Tech Valley Civic App Challenge. I’d like to congratulate the winners selected, as well as all of the bright, creative entrepreneurs that took part in the challenge,” said Senator George Amedore. “There were so many impressive submissions that truly demonstrated the strength of the entire Tech Valley region when it comes to cutting edge and emerging technologies. Thank you to AT&T for giving an outlet to our area’s best and brightest innovators.”

“I wish to congratulate all of the talented winners of the AT&T Tech Valley Civic App Challenge and I thank AT&T for its leadership and the community partners that collaborated to bring this innovative event to this region,” said Assemblymember John T. McDonald III. “The extraordinary results of this app challenge is evident that the local technology and entrepreneurial community is on the rise and that technologies such as mobile are vital in the region’s resurgence as a statewide innovative leader and job creator. I am truly impressed by the creativity and quality of the civic mobile apps that were submitted, they will have a lasting positive impact on the residents of our community.”

“The University at Albany congratulates all of the contestants in the AT&T Tech Valley Civic App Challenge for showcasing our region's broad tech talent and civic commitment,” said Michael Shimazu, associate vice-president, Business Partnerships and Economic Development, University at Albany. “We laud AT&T for collaborating with UAlbany and our regional partners to spotlight innovation in our community and promote the promise of technology and entrepreneurship in advancing social and civic causes.”

“Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is proud to have joined with other Tech Valley region area partners to support this Civic App Challenge with AT&T,” said David Brond, vice president of strategic communications and external relations at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “We are thrilled to see the powerful intersection of technology, problem-solving, and entrepreneurship in these outstanding apps from area students and professionals.”

Kale Kaposhilin, Co-Founder, Hudson Valley Tech Meetup said, “The AT&T Tech Valley Civic App Challenge has been a genuine, tangible opportunity for collaboration across the Tech Valley. This project demonstrates why our region is growing so rapidly as a technology and entrepreneurial hub. Every partner involved in the challenge has helped to build a bridge to connect the technology community, local business organizations and academia. This collaboration is truly the key to creating new ideas and fostering innovation. The possibilities are exciting and I think that we're all look forward to fortifying these newly formed partnerships to continue building a more innovative region. On behalf of all the partners and participants of this civic app challenge I want to thank AT&T for planting the flag that we have all rallied around. Together we have worked hard to sow seeds of support for civic innovation and together we will reap the benefits of a more supportive and engaged Tech Valley community.”  

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*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

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