Technovation: Code Big Blue

Team “Code Big Blue” chose to tackle the issue of cell phone overuse. Their app, “Phocus Phil,” attempts to help students spend less time on their devices.

Alice Tang ’18, a member of “Code Big Blue,” explained that when users open Phocus Phil, designed for Android, the app will track how long they spend without switching to another app. Each minute will increase the size of a ‘pet,’ ….

“The more it grows, the bigger your score is. We wanted to try to make it like a game where you could compete with friends, and so it encourages you to stay off your phone because, when you’re using the app, you can’t check your email or anything,” said Tang.
Code Big Blue consists of Blake Campbell ’18, Kalina Ko ’17, Rebecca Somer ’15, Tang and Wendy Zhang ’17.

During the brainstorming phase, the team thought of a multitude of issues on campus that they wanted to address. They settled on the topic of cell phone overuse after conducting preliminary research in which the girls asked a random set of students what they found to be a major issue. According to the survey, 84% of students said that their phones were a distraction.

The team is mentored by Mikaela Ferguson, who works at a tech startup in the Boston area. They are also assisted by Michael Barker, Director of Institutional Research and Assessment, in conducting their market research.

Before the challenge, no one except Tang had had any previous experience in coding, and so many of them signed up as a first step toward learning more about computer science while also developing business and marketing skills.

The teams used MIT App Inventor, a simple program that allows novice coders to build their own apps for the Android operating system.

“I had my foot halfway through the door in computer science, so I thought that this would be a good way to get started on a project because it didn’t require too much real programming, since it was in App Inventor,” said Tang.