Tuscarawas app challenge thinks safety first

Katie Rush

Lauren Innovations, a New Philadelphia technology company, has partnered with Kent State Tuscarawas to create a Safety App Challenge for Kent State Tuscarawas students and local high school students.

The challenge was designed to encourage students to develop skills in app creating, a growing sector of the technology industry. It also encourages students to take an interest in safety, and how technology can improve it.

“The idea for the Safety App Challenge … came to fruition because we wanted to create a friendly and fun event for local students that would encourage innovation through the creative use of technology,” said Lauren Innovations President Jim Hummel. “It encourages community involvement and networking … and the opportunity to win a scholarship or cash and develop a new and tangible innovation that has the potential to improve the safety of our society.”

Tuscarawas dean, Bradley Bielski, said Lauren Innovations and Kent State Tuscarawas have a long-standing relationship.

“Lauren Innovation has many projects going on,” Bielski said. “But one of their major areas of interest is in first responder software and safety in general.”

The innovation company is housed across the street from the Tuscarawas campus at the Tolloty Technology Incubator. According to its site, it is a building designed to support entrepreneurial efforts with dedicated space for start-up companies linked to high-tech research, development and intellectual property enterprises.

Lorraine Bears, an engineering technology professor at Kent State Tuscarawas, said she has been a part of the process for the challenge since the beginning.

“My department … is involved with all of the areas of the industry in a lot of ways” she said. “Because of our (programs), we‘re able to place a lot of students in different types of internships and jobs (at Lauren Innovations).”

Bielski and Bears said the app designs range from many different versions of safety: in the home, on vacation, on campus, texting and driving safety, and even a trivia game about safety.

Orientation for the challenge was held Oct. 10 for the finalists, and the workshops will be day-long events held at the Tolloty Technology Incubator Center.

The labs in the engineering technology department at Kent Tuscarawas are another available resource for the participants, as well as the faculty in this department.

According to thesafetyappchallenege.com, participants will be using Unity and Unreal Engine as the app development engines for their concepts. The site also incorporates a design and development questions forum for participants to express their questions and concerns in the same place throughout the process of developing.

“Someone in our faculty will be teaching the graphics and how to use unity for app development,” Bears said. “Lauren Innovation has employees who will help the students learn how to program it. We’re tag-teaming to provide the students with the best experience.”

The final submission deadline for the students is Jan. 4, 2016. The top three winners will be announced Jan. 23, 2016 at an awards banquet. 

The first place winner will receive $2,500 cash, or a $5,000 scholarship, and a $2,500 grant from Kent State Tuscarawas. The second place winner will receive $1,500 cash, or a $3,000 scholarship, and a $1,500 grant from Kent State Tuscarawas. Finally, the third place winner will receive $1,000 cash, or a $2,000 scholarship, and a $1,000 grant from Kent State Tuscarawas.

The campus and company plan to continue their partnership annually with this App Challenge. Although this year they focused on safety, Bears said next year might be a completely different topic.

Bears and Bielski both said the successful concepts transformed into user-friendly apps have the potential to not only be taken to market, but the hard work could lead these students to a job.

The future of mobile app creation is growing, making it a useful skill to have for future jobs in technology. According to the University of Alabama at Brigham, mobile app developers had a projected job growth of 131 percent in 2011.

Also according the university, app revenue for mobile devices is projected to be $24.5 billion in the year 2016.  

Katie Rush is the regional campuses reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]