Soon-to-be Eden Prairie High School seniors Jake Derouin and Zach Spears designed a better mousetrap.
“We came up with the idea at about the same time,” said Spears. “We talked about it and thought we could do it.”
The “it” is a computer application that can be used by their cross-country team to track miles, send notifications and serve as a team calendar.
“We can push out announcements to different groups,” said Derouin. “It works better than something like GroupMe, as that can get too cluttered.
“Parents like it too,” he added, “as they like to be included in the communication.”
The miles-tracking feature is also a big deal.
“We designed it as an exact match to our summer-miles book,” said Derouin. “You still have to call them in, but it backs everything up to the cloud. To the kid who loses his phone, that’s a big deal.”
Wait a minute, high school students are calling in miles?
“It’s old fashioned,” admits Spears, “but it forces the younger kids to talk to their captains, and we think that builds a stronger bond.”
Note: Like a lot of schools, Eden Prairie has a summer miles program. If runners meet their miles requirements (first-year runners are tasked with running 25 miles per week, fourth-year runners 35 miles per week), they’re rewarded with a cabin-training trip before school starts.
The app is designed to run on Apple products.
“What you see (user interface) is me,” said Spears. “How it works is Jake.”
Derouin said he started with knowledge he gained from an Eden Prairie High School AP JAVA class. He had also taken an iOS class.
“The hardest part is learning how it works,” said Derouin. “Once you do that, you can start coding.”
Derouin adds that he’s been called a “tech nerd” since kindergarten.
Question: How long did all of this take?
The two designers looked at each other and said, “a long time.”
“You have to factor in all the YouTube videos we watched,” said Derouin. “There’s also some study time credit.”
“I don’t know,” guesses Spears, “it’s over 100 hours.”
The product was launched under the LoonWare name.
“We came up with the name because we wanted to have a Minnesota-related software company,” said Spears.
The app itself is called EPXC. It can be found in the App Store and it’s free.
The next step in the product’s success is acceptance.
“We’ve had a lot of good feedback,” said Spears, “but we want more people using it.”
A feather in their caps has been school district approval for the app to be allowed on Middle School iPads.
“The middle school coach uses it and says it will be a great way to deliver announcements,” said Derouin.
It’s possible the app could be modified to used by the Eden Prairie High School track team.
When asked what happens when they graduate, Derouin said it’s designed so that someone else could run it. “It’s should be easy to use from year to year,” he said.
What happens if another school calls?
“We could always put a bug in it,” laughs Derouin. “In all seriousness, we could help with development.”
In the immediate future, Spears said to look for their soon-to-be released sleep-tracking application.
“For running, the recovery phase is huge,” said Spears. “It’s where you get better.”
He then talked of the lectures on sleep he attended with some of his teammates at a camp in Colorado.
“Sleep is a big part of recovery,” said Derouin. “If we’re all getting enough sleep, it could give us an edge.
“The sleep app would hold us accountable.”
He’s assuming, of course, that the coding is finished.