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MIT team wins OnStar app contest

Four students take home the grand prize in the Student Developer Challenge for their restaurant-locating app.
MIT sophomores and OnStar Developer Challenge winners, from left, Marie Burkland, Drew Dennison, Isaac Evans, and Sarah Sprague
MIT sophomores and OnStar Developer Challenge winners, from left, Marie Burkland, Drew Dennison, Isaac Evans, and Sarah Sprague
Image courtesy of OnStar

A team of four MIT undergraduates won the grand prize in the OnStar Student Developer Challenge for their in-vehicle app called “EatOn,” a way for drivers to discover nearby restaurants.

The OnStar challenge invited students from Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, University of Michigan, University of Texas and University of Toledo to submit voice-enabled applications that would provide improved connectivity to subscribers of the General Motors-owned service.

Six finalists, including two teams from MIT, were invited to present their app to a panel of technology judges at the Where 2.0 Conference held on April 19-21 in Santa Clara, Calif. The winning MIT team — sophomores Drew Dennison, Isaac Evans, Sarah Sprague and Marie Burkland — will take home a “developer dream package” of technology valued at $10,000.

Their app, EatOn, allows drivers to use only their voice to locate nearby restaurants, listen to ratings and reviews, make reservations through OpenTable, and receive turn-by-turn driving directions to the desired location. EatOn users can also send their friends automated text invitations to the restaurant or post their destination on Twitter.

“It was a great competition that allowed us to explore the latest in automotive technology,” Dennison said. “There were excellent submissions and strong teams. It was fun to work together; everyone brought 110 percent effort and we are honored to be selected.”

The other finalist team from MIT consisted of juniors Anthony Morelli and Ian Fischer, who created TAG (The Automotive Game), an app that helps drivers explore their environments by participating in interactive games in which they drive to different locations and learn about local landmarks. The system would even promote road safety, deducting points for excessive speed or driving aggressively.

Both MIT teams were made up of students from the course ESD.051/6.902 (Engineering Innovation and Design), part of the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program.

Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president of planning and business development, said: “We were extremely impressed with all of the students’ final app submissions … I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of these applications incorporated into OnStar’s suite of services in the future.”

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