News Release

UC San Diego Engineering Students Create 'Wall of Widgets' for Mobile Internet

Jacobs School engineering students receive a check for their winning widget during a competition hosted by Qualcomm and UC San Diego. From L to R: students Marc Mounzer, Jen Trezzo, Stephan Kemper, David Vanoni and Andrew Huynh; and Kevin Hunter, Director of Product Management, Qualcomm Internet Services.

San Diego, CA, February 10, 2009 --From finding the nearest restroom to checking the latest movie listings, engineering students at the University of California at San Diego have received kudos for their creative “widgets” designed for a new mobile Internet platform called Plaza.

The winners were announced Jan. 25 during a widget competition hosted by Qualcomm, Incorporated and UC San Diego.  Close to 70 students competed, trying to be among the first in the world to create widgets for the new platform. There were five categories, each offering $1,500 in cash to each winning team.  Below are the winners in each category:  

  • Social & Environmental Good: Bathroom Buddy by Team Rocket. Find the nearest bathroom when an emergency strikes. Student team: Sze-Hao Chen, Yuxiao Ding, Joy Yeh, Luke Liu 
  • Community & Social Networking: “iQ” by Team iQ. Get answers to life’s pressing questions while on the go, like “What’s a successful date?” Student team: Iman Sadeghi, Hourieh Fakourfar
  • Educational & Informational: Pricefinder by Team ExtroKold. Enter the UPC and check the price of any product. Student team: Robert Dunlap, Janessa Herrera, Danny Dalton, David Watson, George Wu
  • Entertainment: Sketch n Etch by Team Pumping Lemma. Gives mobile phone users the ability to draw and even change the line colors while passing the time. Student team: David Vanoni, Andrew Huynh, Marc Mounzer, Jen Trezzo, Stephan Kemper
  • Most Creative: Moviefinder by Team Moufa. Search the nearest theaters by zip code and even view movie trailers. Student team: Nikolaos Trogkanis, Panagiotis Voulgaris, Marios Papas, Vasileios Kontorinis

The engineering students only had a day-and-a-half to design their widgets, which provided some technical and time challenges.

“There was lot of pressure because of the time frame, and there were a lot of technical difficulties we had to overcome,” said Vasileios Kontorinis, a computer science & engineering graduate student who helped design the Moviefinder.  “It was really interesting to experiment with this platform.

“The idea of the Plaza platform is to take all this information from the Internet and present it in a better way on your mobile phone,” Kontorinis explained. “For example, there are different ways users would like information to appear on their cell phone. When we designed Moviefinder, we spent a lot of time on how to categorize the information; we wanted to leave it up to the users on how they want to personalize the kind of movie information they receive.”

This is how Moviefinder works: First a user enters a zip code to find nearby theaters.  Once the theaters are found, a user can view what movies are playing at each theater. The widget also gives the user directions to the theater.

“We wanted to create something that would be useful to people,” Kontorinis said. “All of us like movies, but there are many times when we are out and have no clue what is playing in the theaters. MovieFinder makes it easier for people to search for the movie they want to see.”

Jacobs School students received kudos for their winning widget MovieFinder, which helps people on the go find the best flick in the closest theater.
Kontorinis said his team has some fine tuning to do for the MovieFinder before it can be offered through the Plaza platform. The Jacobs School students may be able to offer their winning widgets to mobile operators worldwide once Plaza is commercially available later this year.

Hourieh Fakourfar, an electrical engineering student who helped design the “iQ,” said her team is thinking about filing for a patent for its widget before offering it on the Plaza platform. Fakourfar, who describes the “iQ” as social networking at its best, said the competition gave her an opportunity to develop real world technology solutions.  “Nobody has implemented this type of widget before,” she said. “We hope that people will like it and use it on a daily basis. We’re hoping this will be the new Facebook on your cell phone.”

By using “iQ,” people can ask their group of friends or those with common interest a question via their mobile phone. The idea behind this widget is to give users more relevant answers to their questions instead of finding generic answers or solutions via the Web.

“For example, one guy in Africa may type in a question on the Internet, ‘What is a successful date?’ If he gets replies from people in the United States or Spain, they may not be the answers he is looking for because of cultural differences,” explained Iman Sadeghi, a Ph.D. student in the computer graphics group in the Jacobs School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science & Engineering. “A successful date in Africa may be different than a successful date in Spain. It depends on the culture and what people expect. With ‘iQ’ he can direct that question to his friends via his mobile phone, and they can give him more appropriate answers.”

The Bathroom Buddy is one of the winning widgets Jacobs School students created for Qualcomm's Plaza mobile Internet platform.

While some mobile users try to find answers to every-day life questions, others may just need to find a bathroom – and in a hurry. That’s the premise behind the “Bathroom Buddy” widget.

“We tried to think of an idea that would be specifically for a mobile device that would maximize the use of Plaza,” said Sze-Hao Chen, a freshman computer science and engineering student. “People are always looking for a bathroom, but a lot of times can’t find one. One of our teammates had this problem her first day on campus.”

Besides designing a product that has real world applications, Chen said the widget competition gave him the opportunity to work with industry leaders whom someday he may be working alongside.

“The competition gave me and my teammates a chance to develop technology that is considered the frontier of the industry,” Chen said, adding that he is looking into possible internship opportunities at Qualcomm.  “We’re excited about being involved in that. It was exciting to be part of the Qualcomm team.”

Ana Schafer, Qualcomm’s senior marketing manager, said the competition also gave Qualcomm a chance to tap into the future workforce.

“We knew students at the Jacobs School would have the creativity and be able to come up with features that would put our technology to practical use in ways we would have never imagined," Schafer said. “We’ve been able to reach out to students and get a lot of their input and fresh ideas.”

Media Contacts

Andrea Siedsma
Jacobs School of Engineering