Students develop College-based app

The current informational resources at the College are often disparate, with events, lectures and games all listed in schedules on separate websites. To address this issue, in one to two weeks, Michael Madding ’15, Ayodele Ekhator ’15 and Timothy Marchese ’15 are releasing Peck, an iPhone application to help facilitate the distribution of information at the College. Madding serves as CEO, Ekhator is chief marketing officer and Marchese works as chief creative officer.

“The way that this school provides information, whether it be through websites, having to go to dining.williams.edu and clicking on various buttons to find the menu or through e-mails and various listserves – there is a huge fragmentation of information, and it is impractical that the students do not have access to all of the information they need to simply carry out their day,” Madding, CEO of Peck, said.

When you first open the app, you are prompted to subscribe to the announcements of athletic teams, academic departments or any student groups. All related events then are synced to “My Horizon,” which serves as the main profile page on Peck. Campus events pulled from the College’s calendar and all dining hall menus are conveniently located on the left hand slide out bar.

The app also enables user-generated events, which can serve both as a personal schedule or when coupled with the blast messaging function, can allow for easy communication with all of the participants of the event at once. The app also features a “circles” component, similar to the concept introduced by Google+, which provides an easy, yet comprehensive view of the user’s involvement in different organizations on campus.

“What we tried to do is streamline all of these sources of information into one platform, one portal,” Madding said. Recognizing that the main function of a phone for users aged 18 to 22 years is social networking, Madding, Ekhator and Marchese combined different elements of popular networking sites to achieve a personalized application.

Contrary to the user-centric functions of most social networking sites in which individuals disperse their personal information, the main goal of Peck is to “engage students more with their college and their community,” Madding said. “The focus is not on the user, but on the activities on campus. It is about getting students to go out to events, invite others to social gatherings and involve one another. It helps the students decide what they want to do.”

The Peck team began as a provisional idea among three entrepreneurial friends. It quickly became a full project upon entry into the Williams Business Plan Competition that offered a grand prize of $15,000. Through the competition, the team collaborated with over 30 alumni in various industries ranging from marketing to technology, wrote a 25-page business plan and finally pitched their idea to the judges. Of around 20 business plans that were created, Peck was selected as one of the top four. Although Peck was not awarded first place, Madding, Marchese and Ekhator continued with the development and creation of the application with contributions from family and friends.

“Applications are replacing websites. The amount of information that can go on an app is endless – you can put anything on an app,” Madding said. “Right now, we are starting small, with four or five features to strike at the core of the college experience without inundating people with a plethora of information. We are hoping for a lot of downloads and in response, the interaction of the students with a lot of different events on campus.”