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UWRF Students Take First Place at Software Design Competition

March 8, 2010-- Sometimes, the prospect of winning $100 can result in remarkable, award-winning software engineering.

University of Wisconsin-River Falls students Ryan Kahn of Wauwatosa, Matthew McKay of Stillwater, Minn., and Jorden Rickard of River Falls, won first place at the second annual Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) Rise Above the Monkey Software Design Competition at the University of Minnesota on Feb. 20. 

Four teams participated in the event, one each from UWRF and the University of North Dakota, and two from the University of Minnesota.

Kahn, McKay, and Rickard first heard about the opportunity from UWRF Professor Anthony Varghese of the computer science and information department, and the three relayed the information to the UWRF ACM chapter.

Varghese says he believes the competition is a great way for students to meet professionals in the computer science field and to practice software development engineering.

“The students also got to see where they stood when compared to students from other universities,” Varghese says.

As part of the competition, Kahn, McKay, and Rickard had one week to create and engineer a software program for local industries Lockheed Martin and Thomson Reuters. Each team was given a scenario to design an in-store navigational shopping program.

“We needed to design a system to track the user’s position throughout the store, suggest coupons, allow them to manage their shopping lists, request customer service and find items throughout the store through an easy map. Think Google Maps, but supermarket instead of the world,” says Kahn.

Competitor’s designs had to account for size, ease of use, shopper experiences, and creativity of technical approach. The teams were judged during three, 15-minute presentations of their design. As Kahn found out, judging can be the most terrifying part of any contest.

“It was incredibly nerve-wracking presenting our solution to the judges,” notes McKay, adding, “I was most nervous about presenting. We were giving our ideas to Lockheed Martin and Thomson Reuters, two massive companies.”

The team also faced a few technical hurdles as well. According to McKay, one of the biggest challenges was not being given a computer to present with.

“I have learned to always have backup plans,” says McKay.

Despite the difficult nature of the contest, the UWRF team came out on top, each student winning $100 in prize money.

While the world can currently only rely on navigation systems for a visit to Grandma’s house, a jaunt to a friend’s cabin, or a road trip to California, thanks to three UWRF students, consumers may soon be able to use it to make their trip to the grocery store faster, easier, and more technologically-savvy.


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