Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Two Spartans create new app to connect people through local events

April 4, 2016
<p>Courtesy of&nbsp;Zoe Zappitell</p>

Courtesy of Zoe Zappitell

Two Spartans have taken their vision and created a new events-based app called Conecter for MSU students to use to meet up and do activities together.

Brittney Urich, an MSU alumna and communications manager for the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Zoe Zappitell, a professional writing junior, launched the app on campus March 24 and it has already obtained more than 800 users.

With the app, any MSU student or faculty member can create an event. After it is posted, it goes to a public feed so anyone can RSVP to it. Events can be centered around studying, eating or just having fun around campus. 

Zappitell pitched an idea of connecting students and the two decided to dive in. The idea was taken to Jeff Grabill, associate provost for teaching, learning and technology and their mentor on the study abroad, who suggested to do research on the project. With six months of research, development started in October 2015.

“When students come to me and they have compelling ideas and want to do something amazing, my response, of course, is to say, ‘yes,’” Grabill said. "Once I connected them with the resources and connections, they just ran with it.”

Grabill said he knew Urich and Zappitell could be successful, so helping them wasn’t a difficult decision.

“To many people, this is the beginning, but I saw all the work they did to get to the real beginning," Grabill said "It’s extremely difficult work and they did it. I have a lot of confidence that they’re going to continue to be successful.”

Urich and Zappitell brought their initial design to Techweek in Chicago. Once they received critique, they brought 60 prototypes to Paul Jaques, director of student and community engagement for Spartan Innovations, and Ken Szymusiak of the Eli Broad College of Business, who helped them get connected with Spartan Innovations and The Hatch.

“This app works very well for what we have here at MSU," Jaques said. "There’s a huge need for incoming freshman needing the help to connect — ‘I need a friend’ or ‘I need someone with similar hobbies’ and connect with these people. It resonates with all of us." 

Seed funders for the app include the College of Arts and Letters, MSUFCU, Spartan Innovations and others. Partnering with Venturit, Inc, development went from October 2015 through the beginning of March 2016.

Urich and Zappittel both said the main reason they launched Conecter was to get people engaged. The women refer to Conecter as the “anti-social media” because social media is mostly for the hype and not really a reflection of what’s actually happening in the real world.

“Right now we have Facebook and Instagram, we’re looking at what other people are doing, we’re not actually talking to them or communicating and it’s really fake,” Zappitell said. “Human connection is lost — I feel like we’re losing that every single day with different social media. If Conecter can bring that back, it’ll be good for the entire campus.”

Urich said posting on social media that you’re at an event doesn’t mean you’ll connect with people.

Because of the app, Urich said finding out what groups are on campus can be easier now that they can be found in one easily accessible space. The app also provides opportunities to find what interests users and even get event suggestions. 

Zappitell said the app is a way to get people to meet others who might not live down the hall with to create a bond that isn’t forced. Users can also invite connections to bring people they might know. 

Urich and Zappitell are currently working on Conecter becoming available for other campuses. Conecter is free and available on iOS. The app will be available on Android soon. 

“It’s a way for students and student groups to create events that students, faculty and staff can RSVP to and get connected and have real face-to-face interactions,” Zappitell said.

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