UC Merced students taking part in app competition

MERCED, Calif.

The students have come up with a wide range of concepts that could benefit their classmates and other colleges across the country.

The apps may also help the young inventors get the jobs they want after graduation.

Want to find free food on the UC Merced campus? Starving students will be happy to hear, there may soon be an app for that.

It's one of many ideas undergraduate teams are developing as part of the university's mobile app challenge.

"We kind of just thought what problems do we as students face that students face everywhere," UC Merced student Andy Luhrs said.

These three students are among the 28 taking part in the contest. Andy Luhrs' group is working on an app that will help students set up study sessions. Seena Zandipour's team is trying to eliminate the rush to register for classes.

"What we're trying to do is create an alert system that text messages you as soon as a class opens up so you never have to worry about stuff like that," Zandipour said.

Meanwhile, Bobby Van Ornam's team is working on an app that will let users know which vitamins they should take.

"I do feel like the next Zuckerburg or Steve Jobs in that this could be the next great big thing," Van Ornam said.

UC Merced is the only school doing this type of challenge at the undergraduate level. The idea came after faculty members met with Silicon Valley executives to see how they could help students prepare for jobs in the tech industry.

"Through the app challenge, our students are learning project management skills, critical thinking skills, technology skills, marketing skills, all these things we feel can assist them as they begin to look for their career and start to interview." UC Merced Career Services Director Brian O'Bruba said.

All three of these participants feel the competition has given them the hands on experience they need to succeed after graduation.

They're also hoping to see their apps spread to other campuses, and possibly around the world. But first, they'd like to take top prize in the challenge.

The challenge will wrap up in April. First UC Merced students will pick their favorite app, and then a panel of venture capitalists will choose the official winner.

The prizes include hundreds of dollars in scholarship money.

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