Smartphone App Idea Wins Second in International Sustainability Competition

Geneseo junior Matthew Bower from Fillmore, N.Y., was part of a team that created a smartphone app that won second place in an international competition focused on sustainability. (Keith Walters photo)

GENESEO, N.Y. - For Geneseo junior Matthew Bower and his teammates from two other colleges, sustainability is a cause for action, and the team created an idea for a smart phone app that has won second place in an international competition and seed money to further develop the product.

Bower and his two fellow team members from the University of Pennsylvania and Essex County College in New Jersey excelled at the 4th Athgo Global Innovation Forum in Washington, D. C., sponsored by Athgo and the World Bank Speakers Bureau. Athgo is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower young people aged 18-32 to develop business plans for ventures that are profitable, socially beneficial and environmentally friendly. One hundred students from 30 countries formed 12 teams to participate in the competition to create small, green-technology commercial plans.

The team's app is called emPower, a mobile application for a smart phone that targets the residential consumer in the United States. The app would allow consumers to track energy usage holistically and for individual appliances, allowing them to turn individual appliances on and off on the go.

"I wasn't that familiar with the business and marketing side of sustainability and this competition greatly enhanced my awareness," said Bower, a psychology major from Fillmore, N.Y. "I was my team's representative and gained experience marketing our product in front of an expert panel of nine CEOs in less than three minutes and then answering questions from the panel for five minutes."

The panel awarded Bower's team second place and $2,000 in seed money to further develop the product. The team will receive the funds after it documents the creation of its company.

"It's very exciting that we now have the opportunity to develop our app," said Bower. "Sustainability holds great potential for business success."

Bower said the connections he made at the Athgo competition will benefit his team greatly as they create their business and will help him personally as he brings into sharper focus his career path related to sustainability, which will likely include graduate school. He was able to interact with chief executive officers of companies focused on the environment and also met Nobel Laureate Mohammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist and founder of the Grameen Bank.

Bower got interested in environmental issues and sustainability after joining the social psychology research team under Geneseo psychology professor James Allen. Bower also is an Edgar Fellow, among 125 in the Geneseo honors program.

"Matt is a great student and is involved in my research projects doing analyses of personality characteristics that contribute to environmentally friendly behavior," said Allen. "He is highly capable, a hard worker and very good at finding worthy opportunities," said Allen.

Bower has become a strong sustainability advocate on campus. He is a resident assistant in the college's EcoHouse, a residence hall community that focuses on issues of sustainability and social justice. He also is vice chair of the college's activities commission; president of Amnesty International student organization on campus; and is an active member of the National Residence Hall Honorary and Alpha Phi Omega, the co-ed service organization. He also sits on the board of directors of Livingston CARES, the college-community organization dedicated to assisting communities in humanitarian projects such as hurricane disaster relief.

"Geneseo definitely provided the opportunity for me to participate in the Athgo Forum, which has turned into a significant event in my college career," said Bower. "Plus, the knowledge I gained about sustainability will help support our environmental programming on campus this year."

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