Chicago Booth student wins UChicago App Challenge

Artur Grabowski, a student in the University of Chicago Booth School of Business Full-Time MBA Program, took the top prize in the 2014 UChicago App Challenge with his app, "The Puppy Test," which creates virtual situations for prospective owners that are intended to represent the challenges that come with owning a dog.

Grabowski said he interviewed pet owners to find out the challenges of dog ownership, issues they had considered before adopting and what they had learned afterward.

"Around 4 million dogs end up in shelters every year, for various reasons. And unfortunately, just over a million of those are euthanized every year. There are many reasons for this, but these are all adoptable dogs," he said in his presentation.

He found that time commitment and budget were the two biggest factors, and 70 percent found that either time, budget or both exceeded their expectations.

"So we created 'The Puppy Test,' which is a way for you to try before you buy. It's a virtual pet that lives on your phone," Grabowski said, adding that it's not a toy but a simulation.

"It simulates the time it takes to actually take care of an animal. At the end of a time period … we tell you how you did."

Users enter in breed, age and name, and the app sends various alerts — when it's time to walk or feed the dog, for example.

"'The Puppy Test' excels in its room for growth and expansion," the judges wrote in their decision.

"The framework that 'The Puppy Test' hopes to expand would allow other apps to create targeted simulations of specific high-commitment, time-intensive tasks. The app's modular design makes it easy to add new features that help users evaluate their decisions."

Another Chicago Booth student, Brian Geddes, who just completed his first year and is focusing on entrepreneurship and marketing management, was a finalist in the competition, with his app, "Oratoria," which he bills as "a private coach for public speaking."

Users can record video or audio, upload text and use the app as a teleprompter, and get feedback.

"Nearly 75 percent of Americans suffer from 'glossophobia,' which is fancy talk for fear of public speaking," Geddes said in his presentation. "We also think that if somehow you were to allow these people to practice in the privacy of their own home before stepping foot in front of an audience, you could do away with a lot of this anxiety."

The UChicago App Challenge, in its third year, is a partnership between IT Services, The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and UChicagoTech, that helps faculty, staff and students from conception to creation of mobile apps.