Monthly Archives: February 2014

Newt’s most important feature

It’s not enough, Newt Developer Tim Carroll said one night over drinks, to make an app people would download.

“We need to make an app people would use everyday,” Tim said at a team meeting in January.

But there are very few apps that provide a functionality people use everyday, or are good enough that people want to use everyday. So, we decided to incorporate an alarm clock that will wake users up in the morning. When the user swipes the alarm clock notification to dismiss it, the Newt app will open. Many iPhone users use an alarm clock every day, so we are hoping this will help increase how often people use our app.

Jennifer Rundle, who has been our team’s lead designer and developer for the alarm clock, has successfully researched how to build the alarm clock.

“It’s officially functional, but there’s still lots to do,” Jennifer said.

We use the UILocalNotifcation class, which is a part of the iOS Developer library, to build the alarm. Applications can use these notifications to schedule alerts at specific times and dates, which the OS is responsible for delivering, and does not require connection to wifi or a remote server.

Local notifications are mostly intended for apps with timer-based actions, like calendars and to-do lists, so it made sense to implement our alarm this way. So far, the alarm is very simple and consists of 3 things: a date picker, and two buttons, “Set Alarm” and “Cancel Alarm”.

The code currently implements a few different functions. The date and time in the scroll are set to the current date and time. The user is able to set an alarm and cancel an alarm. Then, an alert pops up to confirm the action of the alarm.

Team BadApp is Cookin’ Up Code

Team BadApp has been rocking along, and we are really starting to get cookin’ on Sono. No, seriously – we actually had a cookout last weekend at Lele’s, and it was a blast. When this team gets together, it’s always fun (though we can never seem to manage putting the laptops away)! :)

Code-wise, we have been focusing this sprint on A) getting individual audio files to save into folders, and B) developing a waveform for the recordings.

We can currently save individual recordings without having to overwrite old ones, and right now the recordings save to a single list. From there we will break them down into folders. We are still working out the details of what will happen as soon as a user is finished recording, and will likely present them with a simple pop-up screen that allows them to save to an old folder, or simply create a new one.

We found some open-source waveform code, but didn’t really like the look of the waveform because it’s too thick. We are wanting a sleeker design, and a thinner waveform would fit better with this idea.

We are also working on getting a functional sliding menu so that the user can see their choices. Only the recording page and the folders will be usable once the menu is working, but we will also have pages for cloud storage, tutorials, info about the team, and contact information.

Design-wise, Andrew has been working hard on the UI. He has reached out to Olivia Hayes who spoke to our class earlier this semester about UI/UX, and got some really great suggestions from her on how to make our design more understandable. It’s also important that we get a playback/edit page worked up this sprint, so that we will be able to implement the really cool functions of our app later on.

In terms of social media and web, we now have a modest website up that will receive more attention throughout the semester, located at:

Social media strategy is something we are working on as well. We talked with Lele’s friend Jennifer, who works in social media, and she gave us some great tips. We’re now working to have a more practical social media strategy, and especially being more active on our Twitter account with tweets that both inform and entertain, but also show off our product. Using Hootsuite and a spreadsheet template that Jennifer gave us, we will be better able to plan our social media schedule and properly show off our hard work to the world.

The team has got a lot on its plate, but we are happier than ever to be working together and can’t wait for the end-of-sprint demo next week to show off what we’ve got!

The Peace Dove

by Silvana Di Ravenna

Sometimes, all you need to get along is a dove.

A yellow origami dove, to be exact. At least that’s what CodeKite discovered recently. After weeks of talking at the top of our lungs and interrupting each other with our pressing ideas, our group finally realized that we couldn’t continue with this disruptive pattern anymore. Something needed to be done. And soon!

Thank goodness for the intervention of our team member Jung, who ingeniously came up with the idea of a ‘peace bird,’ an object that would finally bring order to our agitated meeting sessions.

The idea was this: Whoever was holding the yellow bird would get the floor and, consequently, have the exclusive right to talk, uninterrupted and without exceptions. We tested and tried it and, much to our surprise, the bird worked beautifully.


Who would have thought that such a simple idea would change the dynamics of our group for the better!

(If you’re curious and wondering, yes, we have been using it ever since, and yes, we were civilized humans after all!)

So, after overcoming our biggest challenge, we focused all of our energies on moving forward with WeatherVain, which is, after all, the reason why we are here.

Great improvements were made on our last meeting: Even though some of our members are still a bit reluctant to abandon the relevance of the weather, we decided to give a greater emphasis to the fashion aspect of the app. We think that by prioritizing the outfits factor, we will be truly differentiating ourselves from the sea of weather apps that populate the universe.
We also decided that, at least for now, gender will not be a key component in our app. That is, users will be able to find the right clothing contained in a single unisex database.

Design-wise, we worked hard on finding the right fonts for our welcome screen, and so far we have narrowed it down to four or five styles that would match our finished concept. However, the final decision has not yet been made as we prioritize coding and the database.


Speaking of databases, Parse has been a great aid to our team, as it has enabled us to classify and sort out the sample clothing quite easily. Even I have been able to help with the classification process, which has been a great – though at times tedious – learning experience.

Finally, from a social aspect, we have been quite successful on Facebook with #Transformation Tuesdays, a post that, every Tuesday, puts the spotlight on one of our members. So far these posts have received the most views, and we are more than happy with the results. It seems that people really love seeing our childhood pics!

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As you can see, we have accomplished quite a bit in the past few weeks. Of course, challenges and tasks still remain. We have yet to find the right clothing vectors to match the (also yet to be found) dress forms, and we are just putting together our first website. But soon you will see the fruit of our labor. We promise that you will be pleased.

So stay tuned, and don’t forget to follow us in our social media platforms! More exciting news to come soon.

Until next week,

The WeatherVain team.

Game Plan beginning to crack the code

By Adam Beard

As the clock continues to wind down with the class approaching the halfway point, Game Plan has begun to code, code and well, code.

The team is very young. In fact, this is its first time working on Xcode and experimenting with iOS app development, so this is completely new to the team.

However, Game Plan created a definite plan at the beginning of the semester to successfully create an app by April 26. Therefore, whether the team is ready or not for the coding process, Game Plan is putting its plan into action by learning along the way through tutorials and trial and error. After all, you only get good at what you do, so if you do nothing, then that is what you’ll be good at.

Our coders have leaped into action with full heads of steam. This past weekend, team members Jeremy Hintz, Courtney Bohrer and Courtney Ross hosted their very own “hackathon,” in which they locked themselves up and collaborated intensively on the Game Plan app for about eight hours.

There was a special guest in attendance at the hackathon as well, as Bohrer’s father, Pat, pitched in to guide the young and beginning developers.

This was not a routine experience for Bohrer, Hintz and Ross, as they had the usual frustrations and errors that come with learning something new. Nevertheless, they worked through it and are continuing to get better and better as iOS developers.

At the hackathon, the three started to create the basic design of the app and were able to get up and running with Parse. Moreover, they created the home screen with the “Login with Facebook” button, a map where all the tailgates will be pinned and a menu with options to drop a pin, unlock a pin, view your events, find your friends and adjust your settings. You can view the results of the coding simulations so far below.


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One thing the team discussed is the possibility of taking the Twitter feed out of the app because it might cause for clutter. The team thinks it may get confusing and packed with functionality if there is too much going on besides the tasks it wants its users to accomplish.

The team is still in the process of designing and creating the app through code and will be for quite some time.

Elyana Barrera, one of our social media geniuses, reached out and congratulated a good amount of people on Twitter that had recently been accepted into the University of Texas at Austin. It is important to Game Plan that it engages with incoming freshmen since that is just one of its main target users of the app. Barrera even tweeted out a specific tweet directed toward all of them as you can see below.

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Barrera and Adam Beard are keeping up with the social media, branding and marketing of the app. The team is also expected to shoot their second video of the semester to turn in as well.

Meanwhile, the Game Plan twitter account received this tweet last week from Mike Barnes, the host of “The Orange Report with Big Mike” on radio.

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Beard saw this tweet immediately and, upon successful communication with the group, gladly accepted Barnes’ invitation to be on his show to discuss the app. The two also got into a little UT football. Listen to the podcast below to hear what was discussed.

“It was a lot of fun being on the show,” Beard said. “It was really exciting to be on the air and promote our app. We gained more followers and likes after being on the show, which is good. The next step is to hopefully be recognized by the Austin American-Statesman, 104.9 The Horn, local television stations and definitely the student organizations like The Daily Texan and Texas Student Television.”

Game Plan is in the coding stretch now, and the team knows it still has to keep its high energy in promoting the brand. With Demo Day being a short two months away, Game Plan is shifting into a higher gear.

The team is looking forward to the second end-of-sprint demo on March 6 during class at 12:30 p.m.

Follow Game Plan on Twitter.
Like Game Plan on Facebook.
Follow Game Plan on Instagram.
Check out the Game Plan website.

Inspiration, Ideas and Icons @VoteSmart @LIDLyfe1

Last week we began the process of creating our own app icon that would be different from the Project Vote Smart brand. We wanted to create our own brand so over the weekend, some of us came up with ideas for app icons that were drastically different from each another.

Chris was inspired by the animations available on the Project Vote Smart website and that led him to first suggest this as an icon. Now you must be asking yourself, “Why would Chris want a naked old man as an app icon?”. Well, this icon was inspired by an animation that is a humorous rendition of “Expose the Candidates”. Real clever and funny isn’t it? Unfortunately, we weren’t sure how Apple would respond to it!


Among other ideas, we also came up with this icon that is a simple ‘V’ with a few lines on top to resemble a light bulb, implying Vote Smart enlightens you and makes you a smarter voter.


Kritika was bouncing off a few ideas in her head and she wanted to create an app icon that would be fun, that would not seem so daunting to first-time voters, especially teenagers who are probably put off by the very notion of voting and voter registration. Since our app is going to be intuitive, fun and easy to use, Kritika needed the app icon to be equally attractive. The real idea kicked in when she thought, “Voting should be fun! Voting should be so easy that even kids can learn how to vote!” That brainstorming led to the creation of this icon with the “Vote Smart” written in wavy handwriting – the handwriting of a child maybe?


It’s colorful, it’s fun and it’s completely different from what one would expect of a voting app. However, Heather suggested creating an icon with too much text may not be the way to go and we started thinking through a little more. There are many app icons out there for example Netflix, which has the whole text in its icon. There are others such as Texas Monthly, which just has a “TM” in its icon. After mulling over our ideas a little more, we decided to use the Project Vote Smart icon as it appears on their Twitter page.


We are considering a few tweaks to this icon, but we can only proceed once we get together with the Project Vote Smart team and hear their ideas about our app icon. We, as a team, have concerns that Project Vote Smart may not want us to stray too far from the “Project Vote Smart” brand. For now, we are working with this as our icon. We may consider changing the background or the figure of the man in the icon. However, at this point, we are still waiting for a meeting to happen with the Vote Smart team.

Other App stuff

We decided to get started our creating our video a little ahead of time, considering we had technical problems with our equipment and editing software last time. Getting in front of the camera and talking is always fun (it’s nerve-wracking for some of us like Kritika and Navin). Maribel is the more camera-friendly person on our team and she does a good job of smiling when she is on camera. Heather is our video expert and she is always, almost out of the frame. We miss her, but so far we haven’t figured out what to do about that.

As always, our coding is on track thanks to Chris and Navin and we hope to show off at least a screen or two for our End-of-Sprint-2 demo.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and visit our website to get updates!

By Kritika Pramod Kulshrestha

Half Way to Demo Day (almost)

Team Newt hit the ground running the moment they realized this coming Friday marked the halfway point from the beginning of the semester to Demo Day. In just a few short weeks, Team Newt has made serious strides in the right direction. 1798246_10152009711647800_1615615723_n

For the previous six weeks, Team Newt spent a lot of time meeting in dive bars, discussing game plans, outlining prototypes and bouncing ideas off each other. This week marked the beginning of individual work, giving everyone a little more time to put into what they’re best at.

Here is a breakdown of what everyone has accomplished this week.

Tim Carroll
1610066_10152009711867800_1583836697_nSo far, I am incredibly happy with our app. I feel that users are going to be able to consume and navigate through content effortlessly, and come back to the app frequently as a result. That being said, I am concerned that as our content grows, we will deviate from this simplicity in favor of too much customization, which will help only a small percentage of users while confusing and frustrating the rest. I look forward to continuing to work on a simplistic application that delivers a great user experience that the mass majority of users want, and will enjoy.

Tim has also developed a strong prototype for our team to work off of.


Joe Capraro:
I’ve spent this week mainly working on the prototype for the commute calculator in XCode. I have figured out how to do the calculations and how to access the traffic data via Google. My next step is to build the address and schedule input areas; the schedule input area will have separate times for each day of the week and a button to import appointments from the user’s Calendar. As far as Tim’s prototype, I love it and the way it’s coming together. I think the sections of the actual prototype just need to be rearranged like we have on the paper diagram and we’re pretty much good to go. And we need to refine and decide on logos and graphics and such.

Bobby Blanchard
1604605_10152009711817800_351926149_nThis week I have been focusing on branding the app, by helping come up with and exciting slogan. I am still trying to narrow it down to a few different options, but here’s what I have so far:

“NewtL Your morning news redefined.”
“Newt: A morning newspaper made for you.”
“Newt: Your personalized morning newspaper.”
“Newt: Isn’t it time somebody reinvented the newspaper.”
“Newt: Because you don’t have time for anything else in the morning.”
“Newt: Welcome to 21st Century News.”
“Newt: Everything but your morning coffee.”

Jennifer Rundle:
This week I have been researching implementation of the alarm. This includes not only writing the code, but brainstorming on the feasibility, design, interface and features that will be included. For example, can and should we allow users to use music from their iPhone/iPad as the wake-up tone? Is the snooze button realistic for our apps functionality? I’ve also been exploring different UI styles and making note of how certain appearances appeal to me and why others do not. In response to Tim’s prototype, I love the grey color scheme and simple icons in our new prototype. I think the pictures could be a little bigger and there might be too much dead space bordering them. However, it’s great progress! Functionality comes first, design second.

Katie Paschall:
1601058_10152009711827800_1069655307_nSince last week, I have played around on Twitter and Facebook. Twitter followers have jumped by 41 and Facebook is at a total of 186. By posing content a few times each day, I believe people will remain interested in what we’re doing. I have been engaging in conversations with some of our followers on Twitter and constantly following new people who I think would be interested in our project. I have also been in contact with a few publications that might be interested in writing small blurbs about our project. With Demo Day nearing, it is important to me to ensure proper publicity for all of our hard work!

Building the Vote Smart App Brand

We started off the week with continuing to build our social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and WordPress. Project Vote Smart already has a large following on Twitter of close to 4,000 followers and while we do want to match or surpass those numbers for our app, a key thing we had to begin doing was promoting our app and curating user reactions to the news of our app.

Let’s rewind a bit to our social media efforts from the past week.

Social Media Rewind

So we’ve got the social media completely in place right? Not really, and here’s why.

Brainstorm the Logo

We are missing a logo for our app. Every brand needs to have a logo. While we are an offshoot of the Project Vote Smart website, we need to create our own brand and for that we wanted something different other than the Project Vote Smart logo. We brainstormed over a few icon/logo ideas and came up with the first sketch.


We are still trying to create a design that is aesthetic, small enough and that reflects the Vote Smart brand.

Save the ZipCode


We initially wanted our app home screen to ask the users to input their Zip Code so that they could look up electoral candidates in their area, but we as a team could not come to a definite conclusion about how we wanted our home screen to look.

Some of us wanted users to be able to link to the Project Vote Smart blog first rather than inputting the Zip Code, because it is possible users may not want to look up candidates first; they may want to know what Project Vote Smart is. However, others on team wanted users to be able to save the Zip Code once they’ve entered it on the Home Screen. We then asked Jeff for ways to save the Zip Code so users do not need to enter this again and again. While Jeff did give us a viable solution, we are still debating on how we want the Home Screen to look.

Coding, coding and design

Navin, Maribel and Chris are working on integrating the Vote Smart API into the XCode environment and are trying to understanding AFNetworking as a networking library to call the Vote Smart API. Heather and Kritika are working on creating a new logo and design while also building social media presence for the team and app.

That marks the progress for this week as we move forward towards End-of-Sprint-2 demo, working to have the API data integrated with our screens.

As always follow us on Twitter, stay tuned for updates on Facebook, and read our blog!


Sono: Coming to the App Store Faster Than the Speed of Sound

As the clock continues to tick, team BadApp is marching on and making great progress on Sono. Last Thursday, the team gave the class a end-of-sprint 1 presentation. We talked about our progress, Sono’s social media impact, and our future hopes and goals for the app. We gave a demo of the fully functional recording and playback capability as well as gained some valuable knowledge and advice about potential road bumps we may encounter further down the road from some of our classmates.

With the end of a successful sprint 1 and presentation, team BadApp is on their feet again to accomplish their sprint 2 goals. As mentioned before, one of our sprint 2 goals was to give the app a basic organization scheme (as seen below).

The small gray button on the upper left hand side of the app will act as a menu button, and when pressed, will slide the screen to the right to bring up an organized menu screen. The menu will give the user an option to go to one of six places within the app: the record, folders, settings, tips, about, or feedback screen.

After we integrate an audio saving function into Sono, the folders page will bring up a list of all the audio files the user has recorded. The settings page will allow the user to set certain options such as the how many seconds backwards that he or she wants the Markback button to mark the audio. The tips page is where the user can go learn how to use and navigate their way around Sono. The about page will feature information about the history and start of Sono, as well as information about the amazing members of team BadApp. Last but not least, the feedback screen will feature a form where Sono users can leave feedback and suggestions on the functionality of the app, as well as suggestions for future updates and expansions.

Most importantly, the record screen will be the main focus of the app. It is the first screen that users will see when the Sono application is opened:

If you have been following our previous blog posts, you can see that we have decided to change the “Tag” and “Tagback” buttons to “Mark” and “Markback” due to the feedback that we received from fellow classmates during our sprint 1 presentation. We also added a “Note” button that will bring up this screen:

This will allow the user to pinpoint a specific time in the audio recording and leave a note that they can come back to look at later on.

This concludes another week of Sono’s progress. Thanks for tuning in, and be sure to come back next week as the team prepares to take on the end-of-sprint 2 demo!

As always, be sure to keep up with Sono’s progress on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions, e-mail us at!

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CodeKite and the Competition Conundrum

By Mark Coddington

Like any team of app developers, CodeKite has faced its share of twists and turns throughout the development process, even in just a month of work. Every week or so, it follows a familiar pattern: Someone on the team identifies a new complication that’s arisen, the rest of us momentarily freak out, we send a frantic flurry of messages to each other, eventually reassure each other that we’re doing fine, then (mostly) calmly continue on our newly adjusted course of action.

Quite conveniently, we have several photos of CodeKite at work this week on the last, most peaceful stage of this cycle:

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The source of those complications is different for every team, but the ones for CodeKite tend to revolve around one idea: competition. Not so much competition with our beloved classmates – though we confess, we sneak a peek at their Twitter follower counts every now and then – but competition with the world out there, among the millions of apps crowding the App Store.

Professor Quigley guaranteed us on the first day of class that no matter our idea, there would some other app out there that already tries to do something like it. And we understood that. But we just figured (or I did, anyway) that within a few days of coming up with our idea, we’d clarify exactly what we do that the competition doesn’t, nestle snugly into our niche, and move on through the rest of the semester without much of a second thought about any soon-to-be-vanquished competition.

That, of course, turned out to be a fantasy. In reality, the threat of competition has continued to shape the core ideas of our app. The initial problem we intended to solve was giving users an app that not only told them the weather, but also combined it with suggestions of what to wear in that weather. But there’s an app for that. It’s called Swackett.

So we surveyed more than 150 potential users for their ideas about what they would want in an app combining weather and fashion. They overwhelmingly told us they wanted detailed weather information, including hour-by-hour forecasts and notifications of severe changes so they could plan for their day with more accurate information in hand. But there’s an app for that, too. Quite a few, actually – dozens of weather apps in the App Store. Turns out the users we surveyed mostly want an app that already exists; they just didn’t know it was out there.

So now we’ve shifted slightly, emphasizing the fashion aspect of WeatherVain and pushing it to the forefront of the app, while still incorporating many of the weather-oriented suggestions of our survey respondents. We’re creating an app that’s geared toward fashion-conscious people who want a fun way to select customized outfits while also getting the weather information that ensures they’re picking an outfit that makes sense to wear that day.

All this pre-emptive jostling for competitive position doesn’t mean WeatherVain isn’t a strong idea. On the contrary, we’re tapping into one of the most universal reasons people use their smartphones – to check the weather – while combining it with the kind of customizable style that’s difficult to find in the iPhone universe. That’s a pretty killer combination, something no app yet has hit just right. We want to be the first.

And maybe we’ll run into more competition as we move forward – perhaps some new weather and fashion app will launch between now and April. We welcome the challenge. After all, the only thing competition has done to us so far is sharpen our app’s focus and spur on its distinct personality.

We say bring it on. We’ll just keep running down our dream:

Developing a social media #GamePlan

By Adam Beard 

“You hear about how many fourth quarter comebacks that a guy has, and I think it means a guy screwed up the first three quarters.” – Peyton Manning

The first quarter of a basketball or football game is seen almost as if it is “unimportant” in the many eyes of sports fans. A team could be down by what seems like an insurmountable amount and still have enough time to come back and win. However, the Game Plan team is committed to this full game of creating and developing an app, and we wanted to make sure we got off to a good enough start so we wouldn’t have to make a heroic comeback.

After the first quarter, which in this case is the first sprint, Game Plan felt pretty solid about their app and where it was headed. One thing, however, bugged Adam Beard, one of the developers.

“I was disappointed in the way our social media presence was going,” Beard said. “I just know how important branding and marketing is. We need to get our name out there, our idea out there and let the world know that we are here.”

This past week, Game Plan has boosted its social media presence. It may not be a touchdown just yet, but the Game Plan team is certainly driving down field.

Beard and Elyana Barrera are the two primary managers behind the social media accounts, which are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

On Facebook, Beard thought it would be a great option to do a “meet the team” idea where each day a post would be shared about who one of the team members is and a little bit about them. The team thinks it would be a great way to engage and allow the fans to get to know them. A sample can be seen here.

Barrera had the idea of posting and tweeting about sporting events at the University of Texas at Austin, so the team is now going to start posting scoring updates, team updates, player updates and things of that nature. An example of a tweet demonstrating this can be seen below.

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During class on Feb. 18, Beard and Barrera wanted to get Carl Nnaji’s opinion on the prototype of the app. Nnaji is a senior at UT and was in class sitting in for the day. Below, you can view what he had to say about the app, which we posted on all of our social media platforms.

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The team also just wanted to post more content and do it more often. This includes mentioning on Twitter that followers can like Game Plan on Facebook or Instagram, and vice versa. It also includes promoting the date of Demo Day and thanking our professors. A variety of what the team has done on social media can be seen below.

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The team has even received some encouragement and interest via Twitter. Check it out below.

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The social media game plan seems to be paying off, as the Facebook page has grown tremendously over just the course of four days, receiving a lot of likes. Moreover, one of our posts had a reach of 1,100. The Twitter has also reached at least 200 followers, up from about 30 on Feb. 14. The Instagram is a little behind, but the team has plans to get that out there to people as well. Take a look at how Game Plan’s social media, on Facebook, for example, is growing.

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In addition, Game Plan’s primary coders – Courtney Ross, Courtney Bohrer and Jeremy Hintz – will be engaging in their very own “hackathon,” an event in which the three will participate in collaborative mobile app programming for Game Plan. The “-athon” part of the word rings true.

“We are going to basically lock ourselves in a room for hours, probably lasting the whole entire day, and just code, code and code,” Ross said.

The two journalists, Beard and Barrera, will most likely not be in attendance for this because of how intense the coders will get.

“It is going to be pretty wild, I bet,” Hintz said. “I don’t blame them for not coming, although I know they are unable to make it because of other obligations. They know what’s up, though.”

Besides building social media and the brand, as well as competing in its very own “hackathon,” other plans for the team this week and next is to work on a video idea, come up with a survey for users who will test the prototype and continue having fun as a team.

All in all, the Game Plan team is competing at a high level right now, but it knows it can’t get complacent.

“We have to keep working hard, and I know we will do just that,” Bohrer said.

Hopefully the team keeps going at this rate so it doesn’t have to pull a Peyton Manning-type comeback and scramble to get done in time.

You can like Game Plan on Facebook, follow the team on Twitter and creep on pictures and videos it posts  on Instagram. Game Plan also has its own website, which is under construction.