By 3 a.m. Sunday, Colin Smith no longer felt any sort of boost from the Monster Energy Drink he'd been chugging.
The coding on the computer screen in front of him turned to gibberish, and his brain begged him to shut down.
"I was a little checked out," he said Sunday afternoon, after his team - APPathetic - took first place in the Bronco Appathon at Boise State University.
"It was super fun, but definitely not something I can do every weekend," said Smith, who plans to put half of his $500 winnings to tuition and the other half to food and maybe an Xbox game.
The 25-year-old senior from Jerome, who is finishing up a degree in information technology management, was one of 65 BSU students who participated in the weekend contest.
The challenge: Create a new mobile or Web application between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning, then give a 5-minute presentation in front of a lecture hall of judges and onlookers.
APPathetic's app is called IntelliClick. It allowed the student presenters to poll everyone in the audience - via their mobile devices or computers - and give immediate feedback on results in the form of charts and graphs on a large screen in the auditorium.
Smith said he'd been thinking for a couple of years about the need to find a replacement for the "clickers" that he had to buy for some classes. The hand-held devices, which he said cost about $55, are used by some professors to get immediate feedback from students in class.
"It seems ridiculous," Smith said of the added expense. "Students don't have a lot of money."
AROUND THE CLOCK
The apps in the contest were judged on a variety of factors, including technical merit, applicability to student or social life, overall design and usability, and the coolness/wow factor.
That's a lot to ask in roughly 42 hours spread over three days at the end of a school week. To help keep participants on track, all meals were provided.
Most people worked in teams, but there were a few solo acts.
Jose "Daniel" De La Garza, a 19-year-old computer science major from Meridian, was the lone member of Team Tuxedo Penguin.
"I get distracted fairly easily, so I thought this was a good way to focus me," said De La Garza, who wants to develop apps after college.
He developed a "photo hunt" app that he envisioned could be a fun game for incoming freshmen - it shows pictures of things on campus and tells you how far you are from what's pictured.
"You're supposed to try to go find them," he said.
Some participants brought sleeping bags and pillows to the four-story Interactive Learning Center, while others left to get a few hours of rest at home. The rules allowed them to leave, but all app coding was supposed to be done at the site.
"We slept here," said Matt Koob, a 22-year-old anthropology major who was part of Mobile Thunder.
"It's what interests me, as far as an academic field. Coding is a small little side passion," said Koob, a part-time iOS developer for the Arbiter, the school's student newspaper.
Koob was on a team that placed second last year. This year his team tied for Best Native App. The group created a way to help computer users with the "blue screen of death" - a total freeze.
Users would take a picture of their screens, and the app reads the error codes and helps troubleshoot the problem with online resources.
This year's Appathon had double the number of participants as the first year, and that's probably as big as the event will get due to facility and cost limitations, Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer Max Davis-Johnson said.
Johnson shared with participants some of what organizers learned last year - specifically, the value of teamwork, exploring big ideas and including students in developing things for fellow students. It is also being promoted as a way for students to mingle with prospective employers.
"If I were recruiting people, this would be a great venue to do it," said one judge, Michael Richardson, founder of TimeGlider.
Next year, the Appathon could have a tie-in with the Treefort Music Fest.
Phil Merrell, a BSU grad who was hired last year to work full time in the Office of Information Technology, is a musician and friend of the Treefort director.
He said other musical events around the country, such as Austin's South by Southwest, have technological components. He and others at the university want to see some collaboration and cross-pollination locally.
"The creativity of music and math and computer science - it's using the same part of your brain," Davis-Johnson said. He wants to have links that create more interest from young people.
"How do we spark that interest in technology?" Davis-Johnson said.
Katy Moeller: 377-6413