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Reynolds institute announces winner for iPhone contest

The winning team, NearBuy, developed a real estate program.

Senior Anthony Brown discusses his team's iPhone application, NearBuy, during a special presentation Tuesday at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. NearBuy, created by team members Anthony Brown, Zhenhua Ma, Dan Wang and Peng Zhuang, won the overall judges' award for best iPhone application in the student contest.

Dak Dillon/Senior Staff Photographer
Katie Prince/Graphic Designer

May 8, 2009

Students developed, tested and marketed their own iPhone applications for the Reynolds Journalism Institute's iPhone Student Contest, which began in September and ended Tuesday when the winning student teams were revealed.

Seventy students started the competition on Sept. 8 at an informational session, according to the RJI Web site.

The judges of the competition included Ben Kruse, the Director of Higher Education Mobility at AT&T, and Mike Bombich, a Systems Engineer at Apple Inc.

The contest participants were given a blank slate for the application design. Judges narrowed down the field of competitors to four finalists. These finalists were then judged by both the panel and by online voters at the contest Web site.

The winning application, NearBuy, was created by senior Anthony Brown, graduate student Zhenhua Ma, graduate student Dan Wang and graduate student Peng Zhuang. The NearBuy application is a real estate program that provides information on real estate listings and maps their locations using the GPS feature of the iPhone.

"First we did some research of similar real estate applications and thought about what we did and didn't like about them," Ma said. "The most unique thing about our application, I think, is that you can freely move around on our map."

Ma said NearBuy's other features were innovative and user-friendly.

"We have a filter where you can narrow down houses you're looking at by the number of bedrooms and bathrooms," Ma said. "We also included a lot of information about the surrounding neighborhood of the house a user would be looking at."

The NearBuy team will attend Apple's 2009 Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco.

The NewsFlash application won the people's choice award. The application allows users to create their own digital newspaper by choosing the subjects they'd like to include.

"One important difference between our application and similar applications is that you can make your own queries, as to the types of news you want," said Kevin Karsch, one of the NewsFlash team members. "If our team didn't consist of people from different colleges, our application wouldn't have been nearly as interesting as it ended up being."

The application utilizes the iPhone's GPS feature to collect news stories from the user's geographical location.

RJI also hosted a discussion panel titled "Journalism: Building New Tools, New Business Models and New Jobs" on Wednesday, in conjunction with the iPhone competition. The discussion topics included the contest and the larger implications of having such innovative projects on campus.

"The students in this room are in a better position to transform the media business than when I graduated before the Internet," said Jim Spencer, the CEO of Newsy.com, an online video news site. "It's a great time to take risks."

UM system President Gary Forsee, who moderated the discussion, said future opportunities are technology driven and that students should "take advantage of technology and growth-oriented" business endeavors.

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