In April 2013, UC Irvine’s Department of Informatics at the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences and the Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders of Southern California honored Autism Awareness month by holding the very first Autism AppJam, a competition to create mobile apps to benefit those with autism. The two-week event kicked off on April 5, 2013 and ended on April 19, 2013 with a formal judging and public viewing event. Among the judges were representatives of competition sponsors including Blizzard Entertainment, Google, Yahoo and IBM.
On April 19th, 21 teams presented mobile apps to the team of judges that addressed a variety of social, emotional and cognitive needs of individuals with autism. UC Irvine School of Medicine students Chanel Fischetti, MS3, and Jacob Blickenstaff, MS3, along with their teammate Chris Dinh, Computer Science, spent their two-weeks developing the TheraConnect app. The goal of TheraConnect is to provide access to recreational resources for teenagers and adults on the spectrum of autism through a safe, social network designed specifically for them. Such a network would allow members to connect with others who share their same interests and needs and find the local resources and activities through which they would be able to physically interact with and gain support from their peers. TheraConnect also helps to address a gap that exists in providing resources for older, higher-functioning persons on the spectrum of autism that are often overlooked as programs are more often designed and targeted to the needs of young children.
The winners of the 2013 Autism AppJam were as follows:
1st Place: Team Imaginateurs for their app, Visual Reader – an app that allowed users to touch on a word in a presented reading passage and see a visual representation of the word to support the connection from text to the physical world. The framework behind this simple concept could be applied for readers at any age level and difficulty.
2nd Place: Team Solace for their app, ImLost
3rd Place: Team College Hero Guild for their app, College Hero
Hopefully, this successful and inspiring event will be the first of many to support autism in the years to come.
For more information on the Autism AppJam: http://thecenter4autism.org/appjam