Students, wearing black T-shirts, at work in JPMorgan Chase's Delaware Code for Good Challenge, a codefest in which students worked to create innovative applications and technical tools.

Coding honors

UD students take honors at JPMorgan Chase's Delaware Code for Good Challenge


5:43 p.m., March 8, 2013--University of Delaware students swept winning honors at JPMorgan Chase’s Delaware Code for Good Challenge, a codefest where teams of students worked for 14 continuous hours to create a wide range of innovative applications and technical tools.

Michael Balles, a mechanical engineering student with a minor in computer science, and McKeighry Tierney, an electrical engineering major in UD’s College of Engineering, took home first place with teammates Lingbin Cai from the University of Pennsylvania and Karthik Nadimpalli from Rochester Institute of Technology.

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Taking second place were Kelsey Woolcott and James Jang, a senior and junior in UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics; Ryan O’Dowd, Angela Pasquale and Thomas Potter, seniors in the College of Engineering; and Qiang Zhou, a graduate student in the College of Engineering.

UD generated the most participants for the event with 17 out of 42 top technology students from 15 area universities.

“The Code for Good Challenge has allowed JPMorgan Chase to bring together the next generation of technology talent to benefit the Delaware community,” said Guy Chiarello, chief information officer, JPMorgan Chase. “We were thrilled with the turn out and impressed by the innovative solutions developed by the students who participated.”

The first place team was selected based on the mobile app they designed for United Way in order for the nonprofit to provide Delawareans with resources and information about their services in real-time and easy access via smartphone devices.

With the app, United Way can streamline its 2,000 services and deliver related information over the weekend and in times of emergency.

“United Way connects people to agencies that provide financial and other forms of assistance but is not open at certain times like the weekends so they wanted an application that would allow people to get in contact with agencies during those times,” said Balles, who noted he became interested in the event as a way to learn more about computer science. 

Balles said his team designed the app for an Android phone and included features that would allow users to search for agencies using a keyword as well as do things like find emergency numbers other than 911, “like” United Way on Facebook or learn more about the organization in general.

“This was an interesting experience because I was able to work with other computer programmers on a practical application for computer science using what I learned from my classes here at UD and we ultimately combined our individual skills to make a useful mobile app,” said Balles.

Tierney said he and Balles worked on the back-end of the app to create a parser/search program in Java to categorize the database and facilitate searching by keyword, while Cai and Nadimpalli created the front-end interface design and hotline one-touch call buttons and integrated the search function into the app.

“I really enjoy coding, but as an electrical engineering major my courses are getting more specialized so I thought this would be a fun opportunity to code and perhaps brush up on programming language,” said Tierney. “I ended up coding on the Java platform and am grateful to James Atlas who taught me to code in the CISC181 course!”

Tierney also said it was a great experience to be paired with students from other universities.

“We were able to design and create a working Android app in 14 hours despite never having met, seen the challenge or known each other’s coding experience beforehand,” Tierney said.

Added Nadimpalli, “the most exciting part was working in a team with new people, sharing technological experiences and brainstorming ideas that led to a solution.”

For Cai, excitement also came from a glitch and necessary quick action on the part of the team. 

“Our presentation laptop froze when we connected it to the projector so we quickly switched the presentation order and solved the problem by presenting through a camera filming the laptop,” said Cai.

While JPMorgan Chase assigned Balles, Tierney, Cai and Nadimpalli to a team, the second place team of Woolcott, Jang, O’Dowd, Pasquale, Potter and Zhou applied to the event as a group.

“Kelsey [Woolcott] mentioned the event in the beginning of the semester and I thought it would be an awesome experience,” said Jang, who noted it was Woolcott who gathered the team together to apply.

Woolcott, who has worked as an intern for JPMorgan Chase since January 2011 as part of the Global Enterprise Technology Immersion Experience, is currently in her third internship with the firm working out of the JPMorgan Chase Innovation Center in Purnell Hall. She is looking forward to becoming a full-time technologist in New York City later this summer.

“This was an extreme technical problem solving marathon leading to a positive solution for someone that needed our help,” said Woolcott. “The best part of the experience was knowing that our work was going toward a foundation that needed young brain power. Our generation is particularly gifted in using technology and as we’re all called to use our gifts to serve one another, this seemed like a great opportunity to give back.”

O’Dowd explained that the team was tasked with constructing a web platform that could be transferred to mobile devices in the form of an app for the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial and emotional support to families of children with cancer and funds childhood cancer research.

“We designed and implemented a web application for B+ that will help champions (individuals who sign up to fundraise for B+) follow through on their pledges,” said O’Dowd. “Currently only about 30 percent of the champions who sign up raise any money for the foundation. Our goal was to reverse those numbers by enabling champions who are not as motivated to get involved. Our solution included corporate sponsorship for online events as well as an emphasis on social media.”

The students also said the lack of sleep helped their cause.

“It was a ton of fun working through the night and sharing laughs with our team,” said Jang, who noted delirium set in after being up all night.

“I loved the thrill of staying up all night,” added Woolcott. “Your mind really expands after sleep deprivation leading to some interesting innovations.”

For O’Dowd, the tight timeline was one of the unique parts of the event he would remember.

“The most exciting part of the competition was designing a solution to a problem from scratch and having a working solution by the end of the event,” said O’Dowd. “Granted it wasn’t a perfect application but having something that worked at the end of a whole night of coding was extremely rewarding.”

Added Jang, “seeing our education and skills come together to create something real that was helping a great cause, not just for a grade or homework assignment, was the most exciting part.”

Balles, Tierney, Cai and Nadimpalli took home iPad minis for their first place win; Woolcott, Jang, O’Dowd, Pasquale, Potter and Zhou each took home $100 Amazon gift cards for their second place win.

Article by Kathryn Meier 

Photo courtesy of JPMorgan Chase

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