Michigan-led App Developers Pitch and Win


The first Code Michigan event, held in downtown Detroit, allowed amateur and professional code developers to design and build mobile applications for state government and to pitch their developed applications to venture capitalists.

Lauren Leeds, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget, says some $30,000 was awarded in cash prizes. “We had 16 mobile app ideas submitted and (a lot of) out-of-the-box thinking. The ideas were fantastic to see,” she says.

Sam Harrell, of Ann Arbor, won first place and $20,000 for his MiMaps application, which maps Michigan’s great outdoors, allowing users to easily find a variety of trails as well as information on nearby lodging and restaurants.

“I do a lot of biking, camping, and hiking throughout the state,” Harrell says. “I have always wanted the ability to map trails on my iPhone. I plan to continue adding maps and hope to launch the app soon.”

Other winners included a team from Midland High School, which took home $7,500 for both the crowd favorite and civic involvement awards. Their application, miLegi, informs Michigan residents about the legislature and allows for tracking state bills and collaboration through social media. Computer science teacher Robert Fox and three seniors — Richard Doktycz, Thor Russell, and Aaron Green — designed the app.

“We started brainstorming in August, and decided it would be good to do something with government, which high school students can relate to,” Fox says.

Fox added that although the weekend-long event held last week, was “emotionally exhausting, the experience was very rewarding.”

According to Leeds, there are already talks of future Code Michigan events.

“Code Michigan is a great example of people working together to enhance government,” said Gov. Rick Snyder in a statement. “The innovation cultivated at this event shows the power of what can happen when citizens are engaged in the reinvention of Michigan.”