Student IPhone App Wins Prize from AT&T

It’s Monday night and you’re a hungry college student with a near empty wallet and a yearning for more than Harvard University Dining Services can offer. What should you do? A quick glance at your iPhone may provide the answer. That is if you’re an early adopter of Rover, an award-winning iPhone application created by a team of five Harvard students.

Rover informs users of events, news, and deals in Harvard and Cambridge. Earlier this month Rover won AT&T’s Big Mobile on Campus Challenge, in which college students submit their designs for mobile applications.

The five students won a trip to the EduCause Annual Conference in Denver, mobile devices of their choice, and a $10,000 scholarship which they will split.

The application currently has about 1,500 active users and between 700 and 1,000 weekly uses.

Rover emerged from the combined CS 50 projects of Alexander G. Bick ’10 and Winston X. Yan ’10. For his final project sophomore year, Bick made the Unofficial Guide to Harvard accessible by Smartphone. The following year, Yan expanded the application by incorporating the real-time “deals” feature. The application was later translated for the iPhone’s platform and became Rover.

Y. Joy Ding ’10, Drew F. Robb ’10, and Cameron N. Spickert ’10 joined the team in September.

Bick says the project began with the concept of putting Harvard Student Agencies’ Let’s Go guidebooks on the iPhone, starting with the Unofficial Guide to Harvard. Students can access the Guide’s contents through an interactive interface.

Michelle I. Brittingham, a senior marketing manager at AT&T and founder of the contest, said she had never seen anything like Rover’s ability to report back to merchants in real time, and that the application went “a couple steps above” the previous year’s winning application, which was created by a team of Stanford students.

She said that AT&T believes that the application is marketable and will probably partner with the Rover team. Winning the contest will change the students’ lives, Brittingham said. Last year’s winning entry sold for $4 million, and she said believes that Rover has even more potential.

But until then Brittingham says, “I made them promise me one thing—that they finish school.”

Yan says that he stumbled upon the contest by chance and entered because Rover was already built and the contest was a natural fit.