Four months ago we threw down a challenge to college students around the country: Build a great app for Windows Phone. The incentive? $15,000 in hard cash and other great prizes.
As you might expect, we got a few takers.
Today I’d like to share the winners with you. Why? Because I think they’re great apps worth downloading and because the work done by these students was inspiring—not to mention a ton of fun to be part of!
My job on Windows Phone is working with students to help them bring their passion and creativity to the platform. Sometimes students already know how to develop apps and they just need some motivation (like a big check). Others are new to building apps and need help and coaching. It’s a great gig, and I know firsthand how talented and creative this group can be.
We created the Big App on Campus challenge to tap that ingenuity and see what surprises students would come up with. When we saw the high level of interest in the contest, we dispatched members of the Windows Phone engineering and evangelism teams to 19 college campuses around the country, hosting training sessions on our developer tools and competitive app-building “hackathons.”
We judged each Big App entry by several criteria—Was it innovative and polished? Did it take advantage of unique Windows Phone features like Live Tiles? How many people would likely download or pay for it?—and ultimately narrowed the list to our 10 free and 10 paid favorites. Then we turned it over to the public to decide the 10 finalists, based on downloads and Facebook “Likes” each received.
Last week, we flew finalists to the South by Southwest music festival in Austin for an exclusive concert with four amazing bands: The Canvas Waiting, The Gracious Few, Live, and Candlebox. Finalists also earned a private dinner with the groups, who shared amazing stories about creating music and life on the road.
Then I had the pleasure of getting on stage and presenting a big (literally) check to the winners. Two students earned $15,000 Grand Prizes and the coveted “Big App on Campus” title. The two apps with the most Facebook Likes received $2,500 People’s Choice awards.
It’s been a fun and inspiring journey, and I’ve enjoyed seeing all the amazing apps students submitted. But enough about me. Here are the winning apps and a few words from their creators about the Big App on Campus experience and what they plan to do with all that cash.
Power Planner | Grand Prize
Andrew Bares of the University of Arizona won a Grand Prize for creating what he calls the “ultimate homework planner,” an app that helps students stay on track with their classes. Windows Phone owners agree: The app has 163 reviews and a 5-star average. $1.99+free trial
Ninja Fruit | Grand Prize
Jeremiah Isaacson of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire earned a $15,000 Grand Prize for the game Ninja Fruit. You play Green Lime, a citrus warrior seeking revenge on the millions of human ninjas who’ve been slicing and dicing your fellow fruit on a daily basis. Free
ScanBizCards | People’s Choice
Chevon Christie of CUNY/Hunter College won a well-deserved People’s Choice award for his very handy business card app, which uses the phone camera to scan the info on a card and add it to your contacts. $6.99+free trial
Baconit | People’s Choice
Quinn Damerell of Purdue University also won a People’s Choice award for his well-designed Reddit app, which has nearly 1000 ratings and a 5-star average. Free
What are your 5 favorite apps?
Chevon: Snowball Assault, People Hub, Twitter, TouchDevelop, and My Travel Buddy
Andrew: Kleio Flashcards, AppTracker, Pageonce Money & Bills, MyAuto, and Yelp.
Quinn: Baconit, Carbon, 4th & Mayor, Fuse, Messaging Hub
Jeremiah: Netflix, Ninja Fruit, eBay, Across The Room.
What are you going to do with $15,000?
Andrew: “Repay my parents for all the things they have done for me. After that, I may possibly buy a used motorcycle, or be responsible and invest in some stocks! But hey, motorcycles get 50 MPG, I would call that responsible!”
Jeremiah: “The funds will go to college expenses, to support a great non-profit organization called Kiva.org, to purchasing a new development laptop so that I can continue to develop apps when I am on the go, and a portion will go into savings.”
What advice would you give to somebody creating their first Windows Phone app?
Chevon: “Don't wait forever to publish your first app. Just get it out there to get the ball rolling!”
Jeremiah: “Don’t be intimidated. Each developer had to start from scratch and the only way to learn is to ask questions and seek answers.”
Quinn: “Make it easy for users to give feedback, and when they do, consider it. Users have a lot of great ideas, and often you will find that many users will be suggesting a similar feature in different ways.”
@benlower | firstname.lastname@example.org | +1 (206) 659-NINJA (6465)
@djmikebrady, my thoughts excactly. Although in place of a T-Shirt, I was thinking that black helicopters might be showing up to his place or something. I'll be watchng to see if he posts back.
But this is really cool. Very empowering for the kids, and gives a fun and educating experience. I wish I had soemthing like this back when I was in college; this and the Imagine Cup.
A big congratulations to all the winners and kudos to Microsoft for supporting them like this.
@Nezz: downloads not always correlated with reviews. you can have lots of ppl downloading an app but not reviewing. you can also have a few downloads but everyone reviews. depends on the app.
congrats on advancing in IC! please email me (my email addy is at the bottom of the blog post above) when you find out about cheating downloads. i hope that it doesn't work :-)
@Ben: I based my data on the fact that results in the marketplace are sorted by downloads and the fact that the number of downloads somehow relates to the number of reviews. I am currently competing in the Imagine Cup and I like the judging citertia for wp games there (I hope we will receive the scores, as we just advanced to round 3). I think games sould be judged by their quality and how fun they are, because that can not be cheated, unlike likes and downloads. There are many sites that sell facebook likes and downloads can be stimulated easily with a few applications availabel for PC (I tested it yesterday and in two days i will see in the app hub if it really worked when I get the data).
@Nezz: We are thinking about our criteria in future and if we should adjust. Not sure where you're getting your data but Ninja Fruit has a lot of downloads. More than all the other apps. The scores on FB are a combination of the downloads and likes on Facebook. How would you like to see us judge future efforts? What criteria would you use?
@Ben: I'm just surprised by the fact that has less than a week of work in it could win. I guess that "resonating" means some kind of like contest on facebook, because the game itself had almost no downloads (appears really low in the list, which is sorted by downloads) and 35 reviews in the US, yet it generated a score of "454850" compared. Noone really heard about it or downloaded it, yet it got an impossibly huge score.
Baconit generated half the score with 1114 (!) five star reviews, lots of downloads, marketplace spotlights, etc etc. Both were in the free app category. Am I the only one who feels that's something's not right here? I am a student developer myself and I've been developing games for the platform for a year now and for that work I received a Lumia 800 from Microsoft, but still, it's nothing compared to this competition.
@Nezz: thanks for your comment. Yes, we are aware that Ninja Fruit was based on the starter kit. The developer of the app informed us of the fact when he submitted to the contest as he wanted to make sure it was OK. The rules we outlined for the contest didn’t restrict the use of starter kits. If students were able to create experiences for the phone that resonated with people (measured by downloads and Facebook likes) then they had the chance to win. Ninja Fruit resonated :-)
Did you guys really give $15000 to a guy who shamelessly changed a few graphics (mostly using photoshop filters) in the ninja academy starter kit ( create.msdn.com/.../ninjacademy ) and put ads in it?
See for yourself:
@ziyanh: all the best in your pursuits in the accelerator
Congratulations to the winners! Great to see students getting so involved in the app space.We've been lucky enough to get selected for a startup accelerator recently and it is amazing to see the number of student startups with amazing ideas around us. Looking forward to trying these apps out.
@Rodney - you either just got a job, or better yet, A T-SHIRT???!! =)
@Rodney: thanks for the feedback & the encouragement!
@Rodney: Please click the Email the editor link above and send me a mail.
These guys are the cream of the crop! Great work fellas, and please keep it coming... Great things are in store for WP very very soon. A change is amongst us, and many of us are finally going to see what we've been looking for. Thanks to the entire WP Team, and guys like these above, we have this beautiful OS. It truly has been a blessing... Thanks Ben L.