Small Business & Startups, Technology, and Travel & Tourism

New apps wow state officials

Winning team creates software that tracks snowplows and cleared roads.

October 17, 2014
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A team from Grand Rapids won the state’s annual web application design contest with an app that tells drivers where snowplows are and which roads are clear to drive. Courtesy Thinkstock.com

LANSING — A team of software engineers from Grand Rapids won the state’s second web application design contest with an app to keep drivers up to the second on snow removal conditions.

The SnowFi app would tell drivers where snowplows are and what roads are clear to drive. To be most effective, it would have to be updated every five seconds, said Eric Buehler, a member of the winning team. Josh Hulst and Ryan Graffy were his team members.

The three will share $5,000 in prize money for developing the best app at the Newaygo contest site, plus $10,000 for being the best overall. Participants in the CodeMichigan contest spent a weekend at one of three sites, developing an app based on information provided by the state. Besides Newaygo, developers worked in Detroit and Marquette.

About 101 developers participated, according to Lauren Leeds, communications representative with the Department of Technology, Management and Budget. Newaygo drew the most developers: 40.

David Behen, director of the department, said CodeMichigan creates more apps than the state could develop on its own.

“CodeMichigan is an exciting opportunity for civic-minded developers and designers to help reinvent Michigan’s government by creating mobile and web apps for the public good,” Behen said.

The department organized the competition, but prize money was provided by sponsors such as the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Google, AT&T, UNISYS and Bizdom.

The SnowFi developers also won a 30-minute time slot to pitch their idea to the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund.

Buehler said his team is working on the best possible sales pitch and tackling more mundane problems, such as who would be responsible for updating the app every five seconds. The cost of that updating plus the cost to further fine tune the app have to be considered before the winning idea can become a reality, he said.

“We are trying to figure out what to do,” he said.

At the Detroit site, first place went to NeighborFood by Andrew Holman, Imran Raja, Abdul Miah and Jonathon Jones, all from southeast Michigan. The app lets shoppers find local farmers with fresh produce and other products for sale.

In Marquette, a four-person team won for Marquette Gravesite Locator. Team members were Jim Argeropoulos, Lynn Makela, Chris Marr and Ed Vielmetti.

Leeds said the next CodeMichigan contest is tentatively planned for the first weekend in October 2015.

Teams showed up ready to work, using databases compiled by the state.

“The idea was to see what you can do,” Buehler said.

Some of the databases had information on schools, lizards, traffic accidents and fishing. They can be found at codemichigan.com.

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