Cody Reinold ’14 wins the Mashable “Best Idea” prize for his dog and pet-monitoring app

by Carolyn Arnold

In today’s advanced technological society, even pets can benefit from cutting-edge web applications. That’s what Cody Reinold ’14, an information systems and operations management (IS&OM) student in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business, proved during a hackathon sponsored by Mashable — a popular and influential technology website and social media blog, and Purina, the pet food company.

He was perusing Mashable, when he saw an announcement for the event. Almost on a whim, he decided to enter.

A hackathon — for those of us not in the technological know— is an event in which computer programmers, software developers, graphic designers, and others come together to work collaboratively or compete to develop new software projects. Reinold, a sophomore who will graduate a year early from Fairfield, had never participated in one before.

He said, “I just came across the announcement and I thought I might as well give it a try.” This hackathon’s goal was to create a web application (app) that would improve the lives of pets.

For a first-time competitor he didn’t do too badly — in fact, he ended up winning in the category of “Best Idea” with “LocalSitter,” an app that connects owners to their pets. LocalSitter allows owners to monitor their pets when they can’t be with them; for example, during family vacations when it’s best that the furriest member of the family stay at home.

Reinold, whose family includes a golden retriever named Ben, explained that LocalSitter gives you assurance that your pet is okay while you are away. “When you go on family vacations,” he explained, “one of the hardest things to do is leave your pet behind with a sitter or at a kennel. You end up spending a lot of your vacation wondering, ‘how is Ben doing?’ So this app lets you stay in touch with your pet and gives you live text updates, pictures, and videos of your pet.”

LocalSitter is a PHP5 and HTML5 webbased application, which means it can run on any web-enabled device such as computers, smartphones, and tablets. The app also catalogs what went on for the entire time that owners are away from their pets. For instance, if a neighbor cares for the pet while the owner is away, they will use the app to log updates of the pet’s day. The owner can then log in to LocalSitter and check on what notes have been posted to see how and what their pet has been doing in their absence. Other opportunities exist for the app, such as allowing doggieday- care center employees to use the app and create logs for the pets in their care, which can then be sent to owners throughout the day.

The atmosphere at the hackathon, which was held in New York City on February 23, was pretty intense, reported Reinold, who had to hop on a train at 6:30 in the morning to arrive on time.

By 9:30 a.m. he was coding, and by 7 p.m. he and approximately 85 participants were presenting their ideas. Often hackathons provide some parameters for a competition, but this one was very open. “You pretty much go into the event blind, and within the given time period we had to develop a complete idea and write all of the code.” It was a lot of work in a short amount of time, Reinold said. “But you just have to find your focus and get it done.”

Reinold was the only individual winner of the day (the other winners were groups of three). For his app, he received $1,500 prize money, which he will put towards his college education. Usage rights to the app are still being worked out post-hackathon, but Purina will most likely own the rights to the app and Reinold will own the license.

While Reinold had no experience with hackathons, he’s no stranger to web design and implementation. When he was only 12 years old, he designed his first website. The tech-savvy student took on his first job while living in St. Petersburg, Fla., and attending a small Catholic middle school.

“My computer teacher saw that I was very good with computers and came up to me one day and said, ‘Hey, I know a guy who needs a website designed and I don’t have the time to do it. You’re good with computers, do you want to talk to him?’”

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