The insider's guide to the Jerome Fisher Program at the University of Pennsylvania

Building a Great Team through M&T and PennApps

by Ajay P., M&T Class of 2017

by Ajay P., M&T Class of 2017

Over the Valentine’s Day weekend earlier this year, I worked on a project at the PennApps hackathon with three fellow M&T freshman, Alex, Ben, and Gagan. We ended up taking the third place overall prize with our entry. Our project, called “GoogolPlex,” was a hack on Siri that allows third-party applications like Spotify or Venmo to integrate commands into Siri. This was not something that could be done in the past due to restrictions placed on Siri by Apple. What made our project unique was that it could be run on any phone, without jailbreaking or otherwise tampering with the phone.

All four of us met during NSO week during various M&T events and quickly found that we each had unique experiences in programming. All of us had done some form of application development in high school, so we thought it’d be fun to participate in PennApps. The day before PennApps in the fall, we met and brainstormed project ideas. We finally decided to build LoudCrowd, a real-time feedback and engagement system for large lectures.

LoudCrowd team: (from left) Ben, Alex, Ajay, and Gagan

LoudCrowd team: (from left) Ben, Alex, Ajay, and Gagan (photo credit: Marjorie Ferrone)

When the weekend was over, we had finished our prototype of the application. Although we did not win any prizes or awards, we learned something more important. All of us got along really well and worked extremely well as a team. We also quickly realized that we had all of the components of a team that we would want – a very strong graphics designer, an excellent business guy, and two strong developers. Pursuing LoudCrowd after PennApps brought us all even closer as we held frequent meetings and spent much more time together as we rebuilt the application from the ground up.

When it came time for this past spring’s PennApps, we decided that we wanted to try something that wasn’t a business idea, but was something that might do well at a hackathon. That was when I had the idea for GoogolPlex. After telling the team the idea and seeing the excitement they had, we decided this was what we were going to do. The rest is history.

Ben, Gagan, and Alex have become some of my best friends at Penn and I couldn’t be more thankful to the M&T Program for bringing us together.

You can read more about our project and the technicals behind it here:

Ajay, originally from Santa Clara, California, is a member of the M&T Class of 2017. He studies Computer Science within Penn Engineering and has yet to declare his concentration in the Wharton School.

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