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Student software takes first

By Marissa Neeley
On April 3, 2014

A group of students in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business won first place for software called RedbirdQ at the Partners in Business Annual IT Student Showcase.

Shai McDonald, Lauren Johnson, John Johnson ll and Aaron Light’s software RedbirdQ is a branch off of their company, Redbird Metrics.

“RedbirdQ is a Google Chrome browser plugin that will allow an user to post to their varying social media accounts from anywhere on the web,” said McDonald, a junior majoring in management information systems. “It shows the best time to post in relation to your followers/friends to get the optimal attention for each post or tweet you create. There is also a calendar function that allows you to queue up posts to send throughout the week, month or year.”

Judges of the competition included Branson Matheson, a systems and security architect for SandSecurity; Patrick Cable, an infrastructure system administrator at a research institute in Massachusetts; and Chad Harrington, CEO of Triptio.

“I was really happy when I found out that two of the judges were from MIT and the other from NASA,” McDonald said. “It really helped to give the feelings that what we're working on has potential to be successful.”

It was a great chance to pitch an idea to an outside judging panel made up of speakers from the Partners in Business Seminar, said Lauren Johnson, a junior in management information systems.

“Most of the people who've looked at our work so far have been inside USU,” she said. “The professors and staff here are amazing, of course, but it was great to get outside feedback.”

Despite winning a $100 gift card to Sam’s Club, John Johnson said feedback is much better.

“Pooling reactions from these industry professionals was better than the prize money,” she said.

“Having qualified people like this look at our work and pick it from among all the other projects was a great honor. I was really excited to get unbiased feedback.”

John Johnson, a sophomore in management information systems, said knowing the prestigious backgrounds of the judges impacted him because they liked the software.

“It really gives me good hope for the future,” he said.

McDonald said he was really happy they won.

“I was even more excited when I found out that the judges were people from outside of the school and had never seen us or our products before,” he said. “It really helped to feel like what we were doing had a shot at succeeding.”

The criteria for winning was based off of who had the best project. The project didn’t have to be working or finished, but it was an extra bonus if it was. The team’s project was pretty close to finished, which was a plus, John Johnson said.

The group prepared by continuing to clean up its software daily, he said.

“Most of the preparation would just come from working on the product itself,” McDonald said. “We all spent our free time working on what needs to be done on RedbirdQ in an effort to get it finished. The competition was just a nice way to present what we had completed.”

Preparing for the competition involved writing a summary, writing a pitch and setting up the team display, John Johnson said.

“The real work was already done — the months of preparation time involving coding and graphic design,” Lauren Johnson said. “We have a great team that works together well, though, so the process was fun, and we learned a lot.”

The Partners in Business Student Showcase competition is an event where students can show off projects they are working on and be ranked among other students who entered the competition, John said.

“I think the Student Showcase is a great way for a student or students to present what they have worked on,” McDonald said. “It's a really great way to hear some of the questions or concerns people will have when they see what you're doing, especially since some of the questions end up being something you've never thought of before. It helps to look at what you're doing from an outside perspective.”

Everything learned from the IT conference helped the team develop a better business strategy, John Johnson said.

“It really boosted our confidence to have such great people select our work,” Lauren Johnson said. “Hopefully that value will translate to people finding value in our software as well.”

John Johnson said he enjoyed the speakers at the conference because they got him excited about Information Technology.

“If we were just looking at the competition itself, if nothing else I got a good feeling that our company is on the right path,” he said.

The group entered the competition because they wanted to show the work they had done this past year, John Johnson said.

“We thought it would be a nice chance to see what people outside of just ourselves thought of what we were making,” McDonald said. “We wanted to see how easily it could be understood and if people would enjoy using what we had created.”

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