Two UCF students will move on to the Modo Labs’ national Ideathon 2019 competition after winning first place at the university level of the contest for their prototype-app involving mental health. The students were presented $1,000 and will have a chance to compete for $10,000 on the national stage against teams from eight other schools at the Kurogo Conference in June.
Modo Labs is the most adopted Higher Education mobile app platform in the country and has been the platform behind the UCF Mobile app since 2016. The company hosted the competition this year to promote problem-solving, team-building and creativity on college campuses. Sophomores Alexander Figoli and David Russell earned first place for their Spirit app, which organizes information on campus resources, services and programs provided by Counseling and Psychological Services in one easy source for students to access. The team was the only one to develop an idea based on mental health, which was one of the suggested challenge themes for the competition. They say their interest in the topic developed as they’ve seen suicide rates increase among young adults in recent years, with one case on campus in December.
“For us, it wasn’t about the money or the reward. We just wanted to be able to get students the help they need,” Figoli says. “We thought mental health was a very big issue that can affect your physical health and grades as well. There are some kids on campus who might be feeling alone and might have a hard time finding support — especially since we’re no longer living with our parents.”
During the weekend competition, which was organized at UCF by the Division of Digital Learning, students developed their apps using software that brings their ideas to life through images, links and interactive buttons. The program required no coding, which Russell, a marketing major, says was a relief since he and Figoli, a mechanical engineering major, have no coding experience.
“I was definitely expecting third or second because I knew our app looked really good, but not first place,” Russell says. “When I heard the first syllables of our team name being called — the rush of excitement was overwhelming,” Russell says.
Figoli and Russell will work to further develop their app by adding features, such as opt-in notifications that would send users motivational quotes and videos, before the national competition June 17 to 20 at MIT. The eight teams to compete are from UCF, California State University at Bakersfield, Cypress College, Florida State University, Maine Maritime Academy, North Carolina University, Texas A&M University and University of California at Berkeley.
While students were able to submit ideas on any topic, some of the other suggested themes included housing insecurity, food insecurity and financial challenges. Most of the students who participated at UCF’s competition developed ideas relating to sustainability and campus involvement.
The Arcade Garden app developed by first-year computer science majors Denielle Abaquita and Oliver Casey earned second place with its campus-involvement focus. The app was designed to make it easier for students to access student organizations and philanthropic efforts on campus by providing information on how to get involved with them, meeting times and a calendar of events.
“Having the opportunity to work on a project I believe in, and with a friend at that, feels like no work at all. It was an enjoyable experience,” Abaquita says.
First-year psychology major Jullianna Stalbaum and interactive-entertainment graduate students Daniel Selvia and Pratik Chougule took third place for a similar idea that focused solely on student organizations related to volunteering and philanthropy.
“Our goal was to make a more convenient and effective resource for students to discover ways to get involved in the community through servant leadership,” Selvia says.