Colleges compete to build app in 48 hours

MIT Ph.D. candidate Drew Harry, left, and MIT undergraduate Freshman Mark Fayngersh lay the foundation for an iPad app during a 48-hour competition at the Cable Show convention in Boston.

Drew Harry isn’t accustomed to having thousands of people walk through his office while he’s working.

But for the chance at $10,000, he’ll let it happen for a couple of days.

Harry, a doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is part of a team building a new app as part of a time-constrained challenge happening right now.

The App Challenge gives five college teams 48 hours to build an app from scratch and they have to do it in the middle of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association convention going on through Wednesday. About 13,000 people are expected to attend the convention.

The teams are working in a space called Imagine Park that is set up on the floor of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center’s main exhibit hall. A panel of judges will decide the best app tomorrow and first prize is $10,000.

“It’s a little bit zoo-like,” said Harry while taking a break from three-hours of coding and building. “Normally I’m in my office with my door closed.”

Harry, who said he puts on headphones to block out the distractions, is working with Mark Fayngersh to build a demo of their app called ROAR. Their app will allow people watching a live television event to be alerted to which of their friends are also watching and enables them to chat.

Joy Sims, a spokeswoman for the convention, said organizers are providing the teams with plenty of Red Bull as well as hotel rooms to get a few hours rest. However, if they are on a roll they will be allowed to stay in the exhibit hall and code overnight.

Another local team, Wellesley College, the only all-female team in the challenge, is building an app called “WorkOut Buddy” that lets users create a fitness regime based on their desired levels of competitiveness and social interaction.

Patrick promotes Mass.

Gov. Deval Patrick touted Massachusetts’ innovation economy to thousands of cable and telecommunications industry leaders attending the annual Cable Show convention being held this week for the first time in Boston.

“You are all in the right place at the right time,” Patrick said, touting the state’s unemployment rate, which is below the national average, as well as clean energy initiatives, broadband expansion and increases in education funding.

“None of this is happening by accident,” he said. “It’s because we are investing in the things we know will have an impact for generations to come.” 

Big names

There are about 13,000 people expected to attend the convention, but you’ll likely only care about the few we list below:
   
Television host Conan O’Brien
MSNBC host Chris Matthews
CNN host Piers Morgan
NBA Commissioner David Stern
Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona


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