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Campus students sweep top spots at Nokia app challenge

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Three University students beat 70 other contestants in the just concluded Nokia Hack challenge that brought together mobile app developers in a two-day competition. Mike Kivuva, a student at JKUAT, emerged the overall winner with his Skinswap app, taking home Sh1 million as prize money.

Skinswap allows users to create personalized mobile phone wallpapers by mixing a hybrid of animal and skins background. One can, for instance, have a wallpaper of a lion with zebra skin. UoN’s Andrew Mutua came second with his “Mhasibu” app, which helps users manage their finances, expenses, bill reminder etc.

The third position went to JKUAT’s Jotham Njuri with his “QuickDrums” app that can create beats and record sequences.

@capitalcampus caught up with the three students;

How did you come up with the winning apps?

Kivuva: I wanted to create an app that is fun to the user and one that would also engage creatives (mainly graphic designers) to the app world. I have a lot of friends who are creatives but can’t leverage from app stores because they don’t code, though they create awesome content. SkinSwap will offer an opportunity for creatives to provide content to the app. I also have a background in graphic design. I used to compete with friends on who could come up with really fun and creative designs. As I was looking for an app idea for the hackathon, I came across a design I had done that was saved in my phone. It was a picture of a camel with a giraffe’s skin. I thought it would be cool to have an app that could get you such cool pictures, and thus SkinSwap was born.

Mutua: I analyzed the society and saw a need for  a financial management tool which would help small businesses manage their finances and also help individuals e.g students manage their helb as effectively as possible by tracking their expenses.

Matu: I initially wanted to make a virtual turntable, but I realized that I wouldn’t end up using it myself. Then I remembered that musicians apply different beats to some of the tracks they mix and a drum machine looked like an appropriate idea, figuring that I had an interest in drum machines. If the app could allow users to create beats and then apply them to their own audio then it would be nice to use. Additionally, I wanted to make something easier to use than some of the drum machines currently in the market.

What motivated them to participate in the Hack?

Kivuva: I was inspired by friends who have gone to previous hacks and came out victorious.
Mutua: I am a fan of challenges and embrace any opportunity to make a positive impact on society. The  1 million shilling cash prize may also have lit a fire under me.
Matu: A friend of mine got me in certain developer classes being held at JKUAT. At the end of the classes, we were expected to develop apps that would compete in the hackathon.

What was the experience like, winning the competition?
Kivuva: It was just awesome. I hope I inspire friends to join the app world.
Mutua: It was elating to say the least. To think I had beat almost 80 other applicants and made such an influential app filled me with pride.
Matu: It was nice. I almost didn’t attend the hackathon due to a complication in the days leading to the event. However I thank all those who didn’t give up on me.

Have you participated in other competitions?
Kivuva: This was my second Nokia hackathon to attend. The previous hackathon was also fun. I learned a lot.
Mutua: Yes, I have competed in other competitions like the Start up weekend where my team and I developed an app called iBambe which got a recognition.
Matu: Yes. There’s last year’s JKUAT Tech Expo and some club organized competitions. My school mates and I have previously teamed up to create applications that can be used in marketing and records management.

How do you balance between studying and developing apps/ideas?
Kivuva: That can be a little tricky. You have to stay on toes; finish assignments early to have the extra time for apps.
Mutua: Developing ideas for apps is like a hobby for me, so it’s not like a taxing endeavor that takes up all my time, just brainstorm during my free time between my studies.
Matu: Studying IT requires that one does a number of projects by the time one graduates. Opportunities for creating applications thus come up during normal study.

How do you plan to use the prize money?
Kivuva: Buy powerful tools, build better apps and have some little fun with it.
Mutua: Buy a motorbike. I’ve been eyeing one for some time now.
Matu: I’ll ponder on that a while longer.

What are there other hobbies, apart from coding?
Kivuva: Graphic design, animation and photography.
Mutua: I enjoy dabbling graphics and web design and photography.
Matu: Watching TV.

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