Explore new mobile apps created by Pepperdine faculty, students, and alumni
As the world’s reliance on online resources continues to grow, Pepperdine faculty, students, and alumni are engaged in developing original, groundbreaking ways to help their peers as well as a wide variety of populations through the invention of effective, accessible, and easy-to-use mobile apps.
Pepperdine Magazine sat down with the innovators behind the apps to find out what inspired them to explore the University’s mission of purpose, service, and leadership in the digital space.
Timothy Lucas, associate professor of mathematics at Seaver College, co-developed Slopes—an app that helps students better understand the content he teaches in his Differential Equations course. Alumnus Joshua Haug (’17) and students Frederick Jacques Joubert (senior), Frank Garcia (senior), and Reagan Brewster (senior) were part of the effort to produce the free educational (and colorful) app that explains calculus principles through visual aids. J. Stanley Warford, professor of computer science, worked with Haug on algorithm developments. Dana Zurzolo, former visiting professor of graphic arts, collaborated with Brewster on creating the icons and logos.
Pepperdine Magazine: What inspired you to develop Slopes?
Tim Lucas: There is mathematical software that supplements undergraduate mathematics education, but they can be very expensive and difficult to teach to students. I wanted to create a program that would produce the relevant pictures while being simple to use. I also wanted students to look at differential equations visually and not just through pencil and paper, so that they could understand what’s going on beyond just calculations.
The pictures on the Slopes app are not the same as you would see on a graphing calculator, and we’ve made it really easy for students to export graphs, email them, or save them on their phones. They can even send their graphs to me to show the work they have completed in class. And since the app is on an iPhone or iPad, students can use their fingers to pinch and pull the graphs, so it’s more interactive than the other programs.
PM: How does Slopes work?
TL: In my Differential Equations course, we focus on understanding how quantities change over time, such as a population, a chemical concentration, or the amount of money a company earns—that’s what “differential equations” really means. After observing a change, you want to follow the progression of that model as it changes. The app is called Slopes because in calculus, a slope represents a rate of change. When you click on the slopes in the app, you can draw a curve that follows those slopes to get an understanding of what the trajectory of a quantity will be over time.
PM: What challenges did you encounter?
TL: Predicting what a user might do is a challenge. You have to make sure that you’ve thought through all the possibilities from a student’s perspective and anticipate what steps would be natural for them to take. I had also expected the development process to be much more difficult than it actually was, but because I worked with such talented students, it made the workflow much easier.
Learn more: slopesapp.com
Alumni Arian Behboodi (MBA/JD ’16) and Zachary J. Darwish (MBA ’16) launched the GivnGo app, which allows users to donate their spare change from recent purchases to any charitable, educational, or religious organization. So whether buying souvenirs on a luxury vacation or stopping at the supermarket on the way home, users have the opportunity to make a positive difference in their communities every single day.
PM: What inspired you to develop GivnGo?
Arian Behboodi: Zach Darwish and I met at Pepperdine, and we began talking about starting a business. The idea for GivnGo popped in my head because I had done some fundraising work as an undergrad at UCLA. I knew there were other apps with similar goals, but those seem archaic in the modern world. Zach loved the idea and we ran with it. Now we have turned into a well-oiled machine, have invested in social media promotions, and are hoping to expand on a marketing campaign.
PM: How does GivenGo work?
AB: GivnGo is a convenient way to give back and a way to partake in service on a micro level. You can send a one-time donation or recurring donations. With recurring donations, we have a round-up plan, where you donate your spare change from rounding up the difference between your purchase and the nearest whole dollar amount. For example, if you swipe your credit card at a store for $15.75, the nearest whole dollar amount would be $16, so you would donate $0.25. You can also set limits to how much you would like to donate within a given month.
Giving is not a rich man’s sport, so you can donate what you can. A little bit goes a long way. Convincing people to give their money away is never an easy sell, so the simpler you make the process, the more people will buy in.
PM: What challenges did you encounter?
AB: In this day and age, you would think everyone is familiar with using technology and would be open to new ideas, but a lot of people are afraid of exploring new technology, so there has been some pushback from charities to partner up with us. I don’t think they’re ready, because they don’t believe in the millennial donors and are hesitant to change their methods. It’s shocking to me that this is how the industry is, but it has encouraged us to get creative with thinking about new and different app ideas that we would like to develop in the future.
Learn more: givngo.com
Along with a team of seven others, Graziadio Business School alumni Oumayma Raimi (MBA ’16) and Chris Rovin (MBA ’14) co-created OD Help, an app that connects potential opioid overdose victims with local carriers of naloxone—a medication used to block the effects of opioids. In 2016 the company behind OD Help, tech startup PwrdBy, was named the winner of the Food and Drug Administration’s Naloxone App Competition, which asked developers to create an app specifically to help opioid users receive an emergency supply of naloxone when on the verge on an overdose.
PM: What inspired you to develop OD Help?
Chris Rovin: OD Help started as a submission to the FDA’s Naloxone App Competition. One of our colleagues at PwrdBy brought the competition to our attention, and given the severity of this epidemic, we decided to see what we could come up with. On the surface, the competition seemed straightforward: connect someone experiencing an overdose with someone carrying the antidote, naloxone. But as we discussed the challenges and sought expert consultation, we realized addressing this issue would not be easy. While the OD Help app has not yet been built and is currently a prototype, we remain committed to finding funding opportunities to build the app.
PM: How does OD Help work?
Oumayma Raimi: OD Help is built on a simple binary idea: how to save people from overdosing if someone is with them and how to rescue them if they are alone. That perspective really sets OD Help apart, because the needs and the environment of users are at the core of its functioning. OD Help detects lower breathing patterns, establishes if users need help, alerts antidote carriers and calls 911, and shares information with the antidote carrier to facilitate access to users in order to rescue them. There is a real need for this product and this new way of tackling the opioid epidemic. Different stakeholders and civil society actors have already shown very positive feedback on the idea.
PM: What do you want people to know about OD Help and the opioid epidemic?
OR and CR: In the US, doctors write more than 250 million opioid prescriptions annually. These prescription opioids, in combination with illegal opiates, resulted in more than 60,000 overdose deaths in 2016. The drug naloxone is is widely used in emergency medicine to bring victims safely out of an opioid overdose. While the administration of naloxone has improved, and is even legally available to the public without a prescription in many jurisdictions, the opioid epidemic has increased in size, scope, and number of lives claimed. If OD Help can assist in saving one life, then we’re on the right track.