After months of coding and planning, a new app for Lewis & Clark students was officially launched on Feb. 10. The Bridge, an app that allows users within the LC community to post and view events, has gone from a user base of around 40 people, who used it during beta testing, to nearly 300. It is now available on Apple and Android devices.
The app was created by students Ochuko Akpovbovbo ’21, Stephen Baker ’21 and Quinn Vinlove ’21. Vinlove and Baker participated in the LC Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) student chapter’s first hackathon in the fall of 2018, a 24-hour-long coding competition. Participants were given the prompt, “Social Good and Accessibility and Lewis & Clark,” which sparked the idea for the app. Vinlove is a computer science/math major, and Baker is a computer science/math and physics double major.
LC’s only previous events calendar was a general calendar located on the school’s website. Typically, this calendar includes larger events and academic talks, but clubs are told to email the head of Student Activities to post their events.
Vinlove and Baker, frustrated with what they viewed as a bottleneck, created the first version of the Bridge app during the hackathon.
“We made what we call ‘Version one,’ which was just scraping events from where Lewis & Clark currently stores them,” Vinlove said. “We ended up winning that hackathon, and everyone was like, ‘You should continue with this, this is great.’”
After the hackathon, Vinlove brought the idea to the Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership’s Idea Hour, hoping to receive funding and support. There he met Akpovbovbo, an Economics major, who loved his idea and decided to work with him to make it a reality.
“I think it was one of those things where it was enough of a problem that people were starting to think about it in their own individual little pockets,” Akpovbovbo said. “Stephen was thinking about it, Quinn was thinking about it, and I was thinking about it, so we all put our abilities together.”
Vinlove and Baker continued to work on developing the app on their own time, devoting much of the summer 2019 break to coding.
“We started working on it and put just a ton of time into it over the summer,” Baker said. “We came up with something pretty good, and we got a grant from the Bates Center, which helped a ton in getting this off the ground.”
In the fall of 2019, the app was released for beta testing within the LC community. The beta was open to the general public, though it required an LC username to log in, and accessible through Test Flight, a beta testing app.
“We used this previous fall to do beta testing,” Baker said. “We sent out test versions of the app, and then from the stuff we gathered from those tests we made a final version over winter break, and we’re in full deployment stage right now.”
Throughout the week of Feb. 10, a team of marketing staff worked to promote the app to the general LC community. Alex Barr ’21, the Bridge’s social media manager (and a sports editor for The Pioneer Log), created @the_bridge_lc and has been following members of the LC community and posting to raise awareness about the app. Several tabling events have been held throughout the week as well, including giveaways of yerba mate and donuts in J.R. Howard and outside of Fields Dining Hall.
Vinlove discussed the impact he hopes the app will have on fellow students.
“I think why this is so cool and why I’m so excited to share this with everyone is that it’s very much a for students, by students thing,” Vinlove said. “I think we’re going to be able to bring something unique to the table by saying, ‘We’re not coming to you from the administration, and we’re not coming to you from some company. We’re helping you as fellow students to have a better time on campus.’”
Baker described the experience of launching the app and seeing fellow students start to use it.
“We were tabling and people would come up, and we would say, ‘Have you heard of the Bridge?’” Baker said. “And they would answer, ‘Yes, I’m using it,’ and that was so amazing, because this started as just talk.”
Akpovbovbo discussed how LC as a community benefits student innovation.
“I know people say that Lewis & Clark doesn’t have a lot of things,” Akpovbovbo said. “But I think you can decide to be like, ‘It doesn’t have a lot of things, so I’m going to make this thing.’ With enough support, if you push for it, you can do some really cool things.”