written by Emily Glaser, news and public information student intern
Jerry Gannod, Miami University professor of computer science and software engineering, enlisted the help of four Miami computer science students and one graphic design student to create a speed-networking app for the Miami University Alumni Association. The app provides an efficient and structured method for hosting networking events.
Seniors Kevin Donnelly, Harry Talamini, Brenna Anderson and Tom Campbell, worked on the “Chatter Hawks” app during their capstone senior design project last year, along with current senior graphic design student Jason Walters.
“It’s sort of like speed dating on steroids,” said Gannod, “The model for speed dating is one on one and the problem is you only have a certain amount of time for the event. You might only get to meet 60 percent of the people there.”
Instead of having one-on-one meetings, the app allows for groups of five people to meet at separate tables, giving participants the opportunity to meet with more people. Chatter Hawks helps the facilitator manage check-ins for events, shows participants which tables they will be at when and has a timer to let the facilitator know when the event is about to end.
Currently, the app is a work in progress; the facilitator can view the app on an iPad and project the seating arrangements it organizes to the event participants. Gannod said that the hope for the future is to be able to send the arrangements to registered participants’ smart phones ahead of time.
The idea for the app came when the company that had previously supplied Miami with software for alumni events became unresponsive. Leslie Marmor, assistant director of alumni relations, had a son in the computer science department and decided to see what help was possible.
The product was piloted last spring at alumni events in Atlanta and Chicago and is in the final stages of development prior to final release.
The students are excited that the Alumni Association can use the app and want the app to eventually be available to other organizations.
“I hope it can be pushed out to other universities and academic institutions,” said Walters, the student graphic designer for the app. “The concept behind the app is fairly versatile, so it would be cool to see it adapted and used in other contexts.”
The developers decided on a comic book theme for the app and Walters’ job was to research common elements found in comic books and design the layout of the app. The name “Chatter Hawks” was born from a combination of wanting to tie the app back to Miami and wanting to relate it to its function.
“We wanted to have some way of tying it back to Miami. We couldn’t use the actual Miami logos or name so we were searching for a way to name this so that it captured the essence of what you’re doing,” said Gannod. “You go to events and you’re talking to people, so chatter, and the hawks piece ties it back to Miami.”
Donnelly, who served as the lead developer with Campbell notes that developing the app was a good learning experience.
“Software development is always a mix of challenge and reward; every day you are learning something new,” Donnelly said. “Also, working as a team was both rewarding in that we could accomplish more then I had ever on my own, and challenging in having to work with different personalities and schedules.”