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For some, the thought of collaborating with their peers is enough to make even the most group-oriented student think swimming with sharks or writing a 50-page essay is more appealing. But now, thanks in part to two Upper School students from the Episcopal School of Dallas, a new smartphone app could make those dreaded group projects a little less stressful.

Introducing “Younify,” a program that allows students to rank their peers on creativity, flexibility, participation, and resourcefulness once a group project has been completed. Each criterion is judged on a five-star scale and made available for other app users to view when it comes times to selecting peer groups for the next project. ESD sophomore Armon Naeini and freshman Graham Smith say the app can also be used by teachers to identify how much a student is contributing to the overall effort.

“It’s probably more for college students and professors right now,” Smith says. “Teachers can benefit from the program because it can help them determine what students may need help on certain projects or better identify who is struggling to understand certain material.”

“It can help match students with other people in their class when it comes time to forming study groups,” Naeini explains. “Since college classes can be so big, this app makes it easy to narrow down a search and find people you can work with.”

The idea was developed last month when Naeini and Smith joined forces with students and faculty members from the University of North Texas for the UNT Campus 2.0 Hackathon presented by the university’s Innovation Center and College of Arts and Sciences. Two students from UNT presented “Younify” after identifying a need for a program that allows students to search out peers in the same class that they would be compatible study-mates.

On the first day of the contest, Naeini and Smith teamed up with a group of college students and professional developers and programmers to start building and testing the app. Through the night, the seven-member group worked together to form a central idea and then design and test the app. The ESD students worked together to develop the graphics interface and navigation, while the rest of the team worked to create the “back end” and server that support the program. Nearly 26 hours later, “Younify” was born, winning the contest’s “Highest Impact to UNT” award.

“Armon and I stayed out in Denton until about midnight and then drove back to Dallas and worked on their part of the app until about 6:00 a.m.,” Smith explains. “Then we went back to UNT after an hour of sleep and finished the project.”

“The best part was frantically trying to fix the last-minute errors before we were supposed to present, Naeini says. “It was also pretty cool because I won a Windows phone in a random drawing.”

With the competition behind them, Smith and Naeini are working to ensure the Windows 7 version is compatible with the upcoming Windows 8 version.  An iPhone and Android app are also expected to be released in early 2013.

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