UI students create award-winning Android app


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Tyler Jensen and Austin Laugesen were unlikely partners and even more unlikely friends a few years ago when they first met.

Now, the duo has formed a team, which earned them a $1,000 scholarship, a free smart phone, and bragging rights after they won a competition to create the best version of an Android application.

“We met during a computer-science scholarship ceremony two years ago,” said Jensen, 21. “The funny thing is we hated each other at first, but we started seeing each other in class almost every day and eventually became friends,”

Jensen and Laugesen competed in the fall 2010 Avnet Virtual Tech Games Android App Challenge, where they had to create an “app” from an idea provided by Avnet Tech Games that followed a list of specific requirements.

Their interpretation and improvement of the app called “Guess Phrase,” a take-off of Catch-Phrase, where players try to describe a phrase to other players. They can’t use the phrase in the description and have 60 seconds to guess the correct phrase.

Jensen and Laugesen beat out eight other competitors and earned a spot in Avnet Virtual Tech Games history.

“Our friendship can be best described by MythBusters’ Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman,” Jensen said. “One is quiet and reserved, while the other is outgoing and excitable, but together, we have this unique dynamic that has worked very well for us.”

While students can sign up to compete alone at the competition, the friends brought their own strengths and talents to produce the winning effort, and it was no easy task. Approximately 30 to 35 hours went into the development of the app, but the pair said they knew they would be able to impress the judges.

“Usually, I ignore these sorts of competitions because I don’t have much free time to compete, but this one caught my eye because it aligned well with the skills I had,” Laugesen, 21, said.

The Avnet Tech Games Virtual Competition is not just a competition; organizers hope it becomes a teaching tool to students in the technological, scientific, business, and engineering fields, said Teri Radosevich, the Avnet vice president of community relations.

“Technology matters to the world, and Avnet is important to that field,” she said. “It’s exactly why we made the games — to help students to succeed.”

The winning two don’t plan on halting their app-creating endeavors anytime soon, and there aren’t any restrictions on their competing again. Jensen has signed up to compete in the spring 2011 games, and Laugesen is hoping to make a comeback in fall 2011.

“Tyler and I both plan to becoming professional software developers,” Laugesen said. “We both devote a fair amount of spare time developing apps on the side, for fun and for profit.”

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