A team of UT Arlington undergraduate engineering students has taken first place and a $10,000 prize in the second annual AT&T Coding Contest for developing a cell phone app that discourages motorists from reading text messages when driving faster than 15 mph.
The team included senior James Fielder, freshman Keyurkumar Patel and juniors Zedd Shmais, Kevin Chung and Andrew Toscano. All are Computer Science & Engineering students.
The 12-week competition included 25 teams. The University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, Georgia State University, Faulkner University and University of California-Los Angeles took second through fifth place, respectively.
The UT Arlington team that won the 2013 AT&T Coding Challenge are (from left): Keyurkumar Patel, Andrew Toscano, Kevin Chung, Zaid Abdulla, Sidharth Goyal and James Fielder.
It was the second time UT
Arlington has earned first-place honors in the national competition.
James Fielder, leader of the
team, said the project was especially gratifying since it answers vital and
problems that people face every day.
“A lot of people, especially
young people, text and drive every day. Some cities have even passed laws
against it,” Fielder said. “It was great to work on a project that is so
current. We feel the app can make a difference in peoples’ lives.”
College of Engineering Dean
Khosrow Behbehani said, “These students represent the best of UT Arlington
innovation and ingenuity. This national prize shines a bright light on our
Computer Science and Engineering Department and our students’ ability to develop
solutions that benefit humanity.”
David Levine, senior lecturer in
the Computer Science & Engineering Department, advised the team but
emphasized that the winning design was student-driven.
“It’s important to know that the
AT&T contest was an engineering contest, not just a programming contest.
They had to document, design and build the app, not just program it,” said Levine,
who added that the team also participated in the highly competitive Association
of Computing Machinery International Competition in Waco earlier this semester.
There were more than 70 teams in that contest. “What’s more amazing is that none
of these undergraduate students have ever taken a smart phone programming
The AT&T contest challenged students to
devise software that curbed or prevented the social pressures of texting while
driving as part of the communications giant’s “It
Can Wait” anti-texting-while-driving campaign. The UT
Arlington team’s app incorporates AT&T’s protocols to encourage and reward
drivers who refrain from using their phone while driving.
The app allows
users to temporarily block, but save text messages when the device is moving
at a certain speed. The app prevents text message alerts that might distract
the driver. The app also enables a personalized text message to notify approved
senders that the phone’s owner is driving and will return the message later.
The app also includes a rewards
system. Points would be awarded to users of the system on a per text basis,
ones that are blocked while driving, and could be redeemed at restaurants and
stores that chose to be a part of an anti-texting-while-driving program.
“Someone might get a dollar off
a hamburger at a local restaurant,” Toscano said. “I think that would appeal to
students, who text constantly.”
The University of Texas at
Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more
than 33,300 students and 2,300 faculty members in the epicenter of North Texas.
It is the second largest institution in the University of Texas System.
Research expenditures reached almost $78 million last year. Visit www.uta.edu for more information.