British Columbia

Can't code? UBC tech contest still wants your app idea

Dozens of UBC students and mentors spent Saturday in a 12-hour marathon smartphone app designing contest - and not a single line of code was written.

'It really showed me what is possible,' says would-be app designer

Successful apps like Uber have inspired app developers. Now, even those who aren't tech savvy are getting in on the booming business. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Dozens of University of British Columbia students and mentors spent Saturday in a 12-hour marathon smartphone app designing contest — and not a single line of code was written.

The event, organized by a UBC business student group, gives participants the opportunity to design their own smartphone app even if they don't have sophisticated technical abilities, such as coding.

"People who don't know how to code still have great ideas and want to make a product, but don't know how to start if they aren't coders," said Deborah Zhang, vice president of marketing for eProjects, the student group behind the event.

Twenty-four teams entered the contest, part of which included each team making a 90-second pitch to a panel of judges. 

The top three winning teams received thousands of dollars worth of design and software tools, digital marketing services, and scholarships. 

The competition, which ended late Saturday, was billed as a non-technical hackathon, where students from all faculties were invited to solve an everyday problem, and communicate the solution visually.

Students pitch ideas

The event was guided by ProtoHack, a San Francisco-based idea incubator, which specializes in mentoring and training people with early-stage business concepts.

Under the guidance of local design and business professionals, participants had half a day to think up an idea, make a visual prototype using design tools, develop a strategic plan, and create a business presentation.

Students were given 90 seconds to pitch their ideas in the first round. (eProjects)

The ideas included, among other things, a design for wearable technology to prevent knee injuries and body-measuring hardware to make the perfect-fitting bra. 

The winning team designed a Google Chrome extension called 'Gitterdun', a plug-in which permits a user to track another person's online activity. It's designed to allow a user — such as an employer — to keep tabs on another person's productivity.

Participants said the event helped them hone the skills needed to start a technology business.

Neither Keiran Ingram or Jacques Martiquet had any coding experience, but in just one day, the student team conceived of, and presented an idea for a mobile virtual reality app aimed at encouraging physical activity in children.

"It really showed me what is possible," said Ingram. "It was amazing seeing all these different teams come up with quite developed ideas and pitch them all over the course of a single day."