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UCI Emergency Services Manager Anne Widney collaborates with Hadar Ziv’s capstone project class to expand the successful, cost-effective ZOTFinder app to Android users.

ZOTFinder was a unique project from the start: When Emergency Services Manager Anne Widney presented the idea to Hadar Ziv’s Senior Capstone Informatics project class, two student groups volunteered to design the UC Irvine-centric app. Equipped with Google Maps technology that pinpoints the location of everything on campus, as well as access to streamlined emergency procedures and UC Irvine safety escort dialers, the app also featured the input of several departments across campus. What’s proven most unique about the app, however, is its resounding success on iTunes.

“It’s a perfect example of an app. The app collects 17 different sources of data that would otherwise be distributed and hard to find, instead of at your fingertips—especially when there is a sense of urgency,” Ziv says. iPhone users agree: The app has been downloaded thousands of times off the Apple marketplace. The Android version is in the works, with volunteers from Ziv’s current Capstone class pitching in to finish it.

The team behind the iOS app included Rudy Mancilla, Aileen Lee and Janina Paragele, while Horiya Ameen, Sheena Perea, Derick Tran and Michael Kunisaki put forth the first iteration of the Android app. All of the students have since graduated. The then-student developers were invited to present at the 2014 Ingenuity Technology Showcase, an annual demonstration of the top student innovations from both the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences and The Henry Samueli School of Engineering.

Widney lauds the app for addressing a campus need while maintaining its student roots. “What we’re really proud of is that this was designed by our students,” she says. Around the time Widney presented the idea before Ziv’s class, campus police had been considering off-the-shelf applications—non-customizable apps for sale on the commercial marketplace. Off-the-shelf apps typically sell for $10,000 to $25,000 a year, making ZOTFinder a far more cost-effective campus option.

The application’s appeal is ubiquitous across the UC Irvine community. “Even people who have worked on campus for 20 years don’t know where every building is,” Widney says. “Whether you’re new to UC Irvine or you’ve worked on campus for 20 years, there’s useful functionality.” The app’s mapping feature proves a great help in everyday community use, as well as for people who visit the campus for events or tours. In emergencies, like an earthquake or fire, critical information is presented in accessible, streamlined snapshots.

ZOTFinder’s success is largely due to its team following through on the project. “Student projects don’t always get to this point,” says Ziv. “They may have gotten to the point of a prototype, but not something that is actually deployed like ZotFinder.”