2013 contest focuses on Windows 8 mobile

Team Safe Trek presents its app at the RJI Tech Showcase, May 1, 2013. L-R: Zach Winkler, Natalie Cheng and Zach Beattie“It’s like a blue light in the palm of your hand.” That’s how the developers of Safe Trek describe their new Windows 8 mobile app that promises to significantly enhance student safety by augmenting the infrequently-used “blue light” emergency phone systems on many college campuses.

Team Safe Trek has won the sixth annual RJI Student Competition that brings together journalism, business and computer science students to exploit opportunities in news, advertising and community engagement. The 2013 contest featured Microsoft’s new Windows 8 mobile software. Last year the company partnered with the Reynolds Journalism Institute to open the first-of-its-kind Microsoft Application Development Lab at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Members of the winning team are Convergence Journalism senior Natalie Cheng, Business Administration senior Zach Beattie and Information Technology senior Zach Winkler. Winkler was the lead programmer on the 2012 winning team that produced Project Scope, a widget for Hearst Innovation that offered local advertisers a self-service platform to more effectively place their messages alongside high-demand and personalized news content.

“We are all obviously very excited about winning, “ says Cheng. “We are so grateful for the resources, mentors and now opportunities this competition has given us.”

The Safe Trek consumer app and first responder dashboard shown on a Windows 8 phone and Surface tablet.The Safe Trek system includes an app where students worried about their safety can hold down a large virtual button that causes the phone to vibrate and the screen to animate. If the user doesn’t input a private PIN within ten seconds, the local police dispatcher receives a web alert that tracks the student’s path on a map. The dispatcher and student can exchange text messages or speak directly until the situation is resolved.

"Winning the RJI competition was exactly what Safe Trek needed to get off the ground, but it wasn't the end goal,” says Beattie. “We're taking this momentum and using it to expedite the implementation of our technology. Columbia has been highly receptive to the idea, and we're hoping to see similar results in other communities."

The students plan to test the Safe Trek system with incoming freshmen on the University of Missouri campus this summer while refining their business plan. One of team’s prizes is a trip to Microsoft’s world headquarters in Redmond, WA where they’ll showcase the app and prepare it for release in the Windows Store.

Following the Windows 8 release, the team will offer the Safe Trek app on the iOS and Android platforms as well.

Coming in second in the RJI competition was Team Place! whose members are Georgi Angelov, Rob King, Billy Martin, Gabe Owens, Barron Roberts and Patrick Ruppert. Their Windows 8 mobile app links to web cams in participating businesses to give users nearly-live views of restaurants, bars, gyms and other high-traffic venues. Place! also offers contact information, menus and other data. The team is also finishing technical development and working on a business plan that includes a test in the Columbia, MO market.

“We’re extremely pleased with the work of these two teams,” says Mike McKean, Director of RJI’s Futures Lab and project manager for the competition. “Whether it’s working for a major media partner such as Hearst or working for themselves, we’ve shown the value of enabling students from journalism, business and computing to innovate solutions critical to the future of media.”

Mike McKean  
Associate Director


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