App Bringing Students To The Game

Mid-Pacific Institute may be one of the best-funded schools in the state, but when it comes to student participation in sporting events, the Owls struggle just like everyone else, even flagship universities. What does separate the Manoa school from the masses, however, is a chief innovations officer with an Apple engineering background and forward-thinking athletic department.Using similar technology adopted by a handful of retail stores to attract shoppers, Brian Dote, that very same former Apple employee, created a smartphone app and tracking system that allows the school to award points that later will turn into prizes for students attending sporting events.

mw-homegrown-100814-midpac

mw-homegrown-100814-midpac
Picture 1 of 2

Pueo Price smartphone app MID-PAC IMAGE

The technology is inexpensive and simple to use, which makes one wonder why Mid-Pac is the lone early adopter.

Using iBeacons, a small, plastic Bluetooth low-energy transmitter, and the application, which registers every time a student attends a sporting event, the school can determine not only who is going to the games, but when they arrive, if they visit the concession stand and even which exit they use. (These last three will be in future app enhancements.) All this, says athletic director Scott Wagner, helps develop school pride by getting more students involved in activities.

“With more kids at the games, the teams feel the support, play better and the games will be more exciting,” says Wagner. “It’s a snowball effect that hopefully will catapult our teams to more success and a lot more institutional pride.”

Though the sample size is small, Wagner reports a positive increase in attendance at all sporting events.

The plan was birthed at a booster club meeting early this year. The M Club, made up of parents and former students, figured out that social media could be used to entice kids to attend games. What began as a suggestion to combine Instagram, selfies and hashtags in some sort of sports-marketing effort changed when Dote was hired in July and suggested the current system.

The program works like this: Students download the free Pueo Pride app to their smart-phone or tablet. Once they register with their email, the system registers each time they attend a select game. Wagner choses between two and five “games of the week” that rotates among all Mid-Pac sports throughout the school year. When students attend, they receive 10 points to their account. If they share a game photo on Instagram and use the Pueo Pride hashtag, they are eligible for an additional 10 points should their photo be named pic of the week. At the end of the school year, the student with the most points, or perhaps the top three or four, will win a prize equal to a new iPad. Since every student gets an iPad upon registration, the gift will be different but equal in value. To date, 396 students have downloaded the app, and the program has been accessed 1,788 times.

Though the current focus is on athletics, Dote says a future goal is to create a schoolwide system that will help students interact with every part of campus, whether it be plays, lectures, chess tournaments or robotic competitions.

“A longer-term goal is programming, application development and mobile application development — those are all tracks we want to build at the school, and things like Pueo Pride are a beacon to attach students to the programs and to the school,” explains Dote. Soon students may be developing their own apps or enhance applications already in use.

So, with 10-packs of iBeacons selling for just $100, why isn’t everyone using one?

Not everyone is able to take an app from concept to completion in a month.

“We can do app development in house, which is an advantage,” says Dote. “Other companies or schools would have to come up with a concept, come up with a budget, fund it, pitch it and pick a vendor. Scott and I built it this summer.”

Mid-Pac is about to get some competition.

smurray@midweek.com