At AT&T Civic App Challenge, $13,000 Awarded to Military Circle of Support App

Photo: Military Veterans Circle of Support won the Civic App Challenge in New Jersey. Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Military Veterans Circle of Support won the Civic App Challenge in New Jersey. | Esther Surden

The AT&T New Jersey Civic App Challenge was more than just an opportunity for N.J. civic app creators to showcase their products and win some money.

It was a way for all regions of the state to be represented in a single virtual contest designed to enhance the public good. This year’s app challenge was aimed at veterans, but the entries weren’t restricted to apps for veterans to use.

The app challenge was launched at an event involving the New Jersey Tech Council at the JuiceTank Innovation Lab (Somerset), in September.

On Dec. 4, at Rowan University (Glassboro), the winners were announced and the idea of creating apps for good was celebrated.

Photo: Rowan President Dr. Ali A. Houshmand Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Rowan President Dr. Ali A. Houshmand | Esther Surden

After looking at the finalists’ entries, which were being demonstrated in the room where the event  took place, Rowan President Dr. Ali A. Houshmand said that he sometimes worried about how well-prepared students for going out into the world, but that these types of opportunities give industry and students an opportunity to interact.

“I went around to look at some of the apps here today, and some of them were really brilliant. … It shows you that some serious minds are being trained, and that they will take care of this country.”

James Barrood, president and CEO of the New Jersey Tech Council, noted that people who get involved in contests like this, and improve their skills while doing so, are the kind of people that companies want. He added that the Tech Council will continue to support these kinds of contests. He praised AT&T because it’s on the ground “doing neat stuff like this. … Writing a check isn’t good enough anymore. You need to be on the ground engaging with the community to improve the ecosystem, improve the talent pipeline.”

Speaking for Vets4Warriors, Lloyd Deans, who’s no stranger to creating apps for veterans, observed that “today we are meeting the winners, the folks who developed innovative and thoughtful solutions for the military and veterans sector.”

Photo: Speakers at the app challenge event Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Speakers at the app challenge event | Esther Surden

Charlene Brown, regional vice president for external affairs at AT&T, said that the app challenge was “a way for us to showcase the abundant tech talent in the state and how mobile technology is playing a significant role in innovation.” It can also help solve community issues and provide solutions to benefit the state, she added.

New Jersey Assemblyman Adam J. Taliaferro was very impressed by the apps that had been developed to help people with disabilities. “I wish some of these apps were available when I was going through my injury,” he said, explaining that he had been in the hospital for eight months with a spinal cord injury.

He also noted that the apps had been created within a very short time — during a two-month virtual hackathon. “I can only imagine what you would have come up with given a year or two years,” he said. And he told the group that there were no losers there.

But, of course, the winners were announced.

Taking home the grand prize, as well as the  regional prize for Northern New Jersey, was Military Veterans Circle of Support, a mobile app that provides access to a complete ecosystem of support for military veterans, families and the organizations and government agencies that serve them.

The team, led by Saurabh Kumar, won a total of $13,000. Kumar explained that the reason they were attracted to this challenge was the social aspect. The company had been doing mobile apps, but wanted to do something for veterans. Kumar said that he would use the money to make the app available through the Apple store and offer it to veterans who need it.

Photo: The ColorsKit app from Webteam Photo Credit: Esther Surden
The ColorsKit app from Webteam | Esther Surden

Central New Jersey’s winner was ColorsKit, a package of mobile apps designed to manage the complete range of cognitive development phases in the lives of children and adults with autism. The team received $3,000. While the app was developed for those with autism, Mukesh Patel, team leader, said that it could also be applied to those with cognitive difficulties or severe brain trauma suffered on the battlefield. “We hope we can work with you to make it available to veterans as they relearn certain skills.”

A team from Rowan University was the Southern New Jersey regional winner, also receiving $3,000. Led by student Joseph Proleika, the team created Veteran Route Assistance, a location-marking app geared to military veterans with memory loss due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Photo: Denise Spell of Currant Neighborhood Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Denise Spell of Currant Neighborhood | Esther Surden

In a surprise move, the judges elected to provide a special $1,500 award to Current Neighborhood, a mobile app developed by Denise Spell and the team from Currant (Newark). Inspired by the events after Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey, the app enables citizens to share information such as where to find gas, groceries or shelter after a natural disaster. Spell told AT&T that the award will help the company make the app available for free from the Apple app store.

The rest of the finalists included TeleNurse Network (team led by Marisela Cigliuti), an app that connects patients to nursing services and wellness providers; the Public Thinking Cap (Mark Annett), a crowdsourcing platform for government and nonprofit agencies that need your help to solve problems; VetQuest (Perry Goldman, a student at The College of New Jersey), a role playing game for veterans; Deep Breath (Daniel Paiva Fernandes, Stockton University), an app that lets veterans and others practice breathing exercises; Calendar App (Johnathan Saunders, Rowan), an app to simplify the user’s interaction with a calendar app; and PTSD Aid (Tyler Carberry, Rowan), an app that helps veterans diagnose and manage PTSD.

A panel of judges reviewed and scored the apps during an event at AT&T’s Global Network Operations Center, in Bedminster, in November. The judges were: State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr.; State Senator Jennifer Beck ; Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson; Dr. Andrea Lobo, Rowan University; Wendy Lang, Thomas Edison State College; Judith Sheft, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Dr. Paul Rohmeyer, Stevens Institute of Technology; Lloyd Deans, Vets4Warriors/Rutgers; Leo Bussiere, AT&T; and MaryAlice W. Breuninger, Independent College Fund of New Jersey

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