Computer science students win app-writing competition

April 23, 2010

Two Luther College computer science majors, Andrew Baumann and Brett Hazen, caught the notice of startup firms Twilio and Boxee, and landed an entrepreneurial online application by winning the “TV Meets Telephony Hack Challenge” April 9-11 in San Francisco.

Their application “Bring the Popcorn” bested the Hack Challenge entries of 30 other application development teams, including a number of professional developers, within the 30-hour Hack-A-Thon.

“We were the youngest people there,” said Hazen. “There were a dozen or more professional application developers, and they were talking jargon that was way over our heads.”

Bring the Popcorn is an application which allows users to promptly organize a movie party directly from the social media center application Boxee. Popcorn users can add friends, sort out who brings what and send a text message to the friends to confirm attendance.   

“Going in, we thought we had an application that could win,” said Baumann. 

Boxee is a home theatre social media center that can be installed on personal computers and optionally played through a TV. Boxee allows users to watch Internet movies and television shows, listen to online radio and music and play local digital music and movies. Boxee is soon to publicly release the Boxee Box, created by Boxee and D-Link. The Boxee Box is a simple to use, personalized social media center that you connect to your television.

Twilio is a company that offers a service that allows developers to add TXT and calling functionality to applications.

First prize for the April 9-11 competition included a Boxee Box, never sold before, as well as a Netbook by Twilio and Boxee/Twilio clothing.

Baumann and Hazen received one free flight ticket from Twilio. Brad Miller, Luther professor of computer science, agreed to provide the second ticket with funds from the college’s Erdman Entrepreneurship Fund.

“I do not know of a better way to finish the school year. I learned in the best way possible that if you want something that seems unrealistic, it never hurts to ask. Twilio and Luther gave us those golden tickets,” said Baumann.

Baumann and Hazen plan to expand the Bring the Popcorn application into an event planning website in the future.