Visitors to campus may soon be able to embark on an adventure guided by a new mobile application.
The Student Technology Advisory Board chose a winner last month for their application contest they held in January. Nicholas Boccardi, a Wharton sophomore, submitted the winning idea of a mobile application that would help campus visitors find their way around.
Boccardi is tour guide coordinator for the Kite and Key Society, which gives tours to prospective students. He had the idea when he saw the need for a more personalized experience on campus tours.
With over 70,000 visitors to Penn each year, he said, “in an hour and a half, it’s hard to give a personalized experience to everyone.”
The mobile application will ask users questions about their interests, and then direct them to the places on Penn’s campus that match up with those interests.
Michael Chan, the head of STAB and a Wharton and College junior, said it was a tough decision between two finalist applications, but Boccardi’s idea won because it “showed that a lot of thought went into it.” Boccardi had talked to Office of Admissions staff to see if the idea was viable and “laid out a lot of specifics,” Chan said. “It had a clear path to implementation.”
The judging process incorporated input from the entire STAB board, Chan said.
Boccardi, who was “surprised about winning but happy,” said he wants to see his idea supplement campus tours.
He hopes the application will affect prospective students’ decisions to come to Penn by added “more depth” to their visits. Due to the high number of visitors, guides often cannot answer all the questions visitors have or visit places that might only appeal to a specific segment of visitors.
Blake Ellison, a Wharton sophomore and Kite and Key tour guide, thinks the application would supplement the tour but will not be a complete replacement.
“It does not give a personal touch,” he said, comparing the application to Google, in that it can give a lot information, but will never be able to emulate the personal stories that a human tour guide could provide.
STAB is currently looking for a student developer to bring the application to life. According to Chris Mustazza, director of Social Sciences Computing and Student Technology, STAB will pay the developer around $15 an hour for their work with a SAS computing grant.
Mustazza wrote in an email that he hopes the application contest and result “will set a methodology and framework” for developing future applications “that are conceived by students and built by students.”
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