UIT Sponsors University of Houston’s first-ever Ideathon

 IdeaThon Group Photo

In March, the University Information Technology department hosted the university’s first-ever Ideathon event and by all accounts it was a rousing success.

Ideathon is a 24-hour event that challenges teams of students to bring app ideas to life by using the Modo Campus platform. The event benefits students as it allows them to receive training and hands-on experience working on the Modo Labs platform which partnered with UIT to sponsor the event. Additionally, the event did not require participants to know how to code.

UIT Web Technology Manager Jody Gillit and UIT Executive Administrative Assistant Carmen Bello led the efforts to organize the event, while a five-judge panel judged the app ideas.


The judge panel consisted of Modo Client Success Manager Jennifer Macy, Sr. Associate VC/VP Administration & Finance Emily Messa, Assoc. Director, Center Student Involvement Eric Smith, Assistant Professor of Digital Media, Inform. & Logistic Technology Elizabeth Rodwell, and Anahi Ortega, a College of Engineering student and Student Government Association senator.

Interested teams were asked to submit an idea by February 25, and the response was overwhelmingly positive with 56 teams submitting app ideas that fell into several categories, including academic, campus life, career services, auxiliary services, mapping, marketplace, mentoring, and social networking.

“We had figured out a judging matrix for how we were going to balance all the ideas received, but we didn’t take into consideration we’d receive 56 ideas,” said Gillit. “It was one of the most stressful days trying to figure out how to pick from such good ideas with 56 of them. It was a wonderful problem.”

In the end, six teams, made up of 21 students, were selected for the event. The participating teams had a kickoff and training on March 20 before diving headfirst into the competition on March 22.

The six teams worked on their ideas Friday evening through Saturday evening with work stopping at 5 pm on Saturday, March 23. The next step required the teams to create a presentation for their app idea, which was then presented to the five judges. The panel of judges considered each application's user interface, user experience and marketability.

First place was awarded to CoogDevs for their app CougTutor that unifies all UH’s tutoring departments, thus providing students with seamless access to tutoring schedules, and facilitating direct communication with tutors. The four-person team won $2,500 and a Google Tab 8 tablet for each team member.


LatinoTech nabbed second place with its app, UH4U –Mental Health and First-Gen resources, winning $2,000 in the process. The app provides comprehensive mental health support tailored to the challenges faced by UH freshman students from low-income backgrounds.


The third-place team, Bytesters, won $1,000 for their app, CampusQuest: Engage, Earn, Excel. The app rewards students for attending campus events with points that can be redeemable for discounts, while fostering a vibrant social network.


Gillit said one aspect that she enjoyed from this year’s Ideathon is how diverse the teams were, from their ideas to the team’s ethnicity makeup and what they major in.

With the first Ideathon in the books, Gillit and UIT look forward to next year’s event and are already thinking about ways to improve it. One of those changes could be adding an additional Ideathon strictly for coders.

For Diane Trippel, UIT Web and Communication Services Director, Ideathon aligned with the Division of Administration and Finance’s goal of student success.

“It provided the opportunity for our students to help improve UH Go with their ideas on how they can use the app to improve their student journey,” said Trippel.

“We wanted to bring Ideathon to UH much sooner, but we were never able to get a campus sponsor, so UIT stepped up and sponsored it and was truly a great event for UIT, Modo Labs, and our student competitors.”

Overall UIT is happy with UH’s first Ideathon.

“It exceeded my expectations,” said Gillit.