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Students Use Computer Science Skills to Help Small Businesses Deal with COVID’s Impact
By Jackie Ostrowicki
With people hunkering down at home to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19, venturing out only when necessary, things have been hard for small businesses—especially local restaurants and coffeeshops. They depend on patrons coming in to buy food and beverages, but the pandemic has reduced traffic and shifted purchasing online, with many customers choosing takeout or curbside pickup.
Enter Brim, a mobile ordering app that can be used by any business using the Square payment system. Luke Bogus and Jacob Peddicord, both students in the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, initially created the app as a business opportunity—but when the pandemic hit a week after the app launched, they shifted their plan and used their skills to help the community.
Lending a Hand to Local Businesses
They began designing the app in 2019 after seeing a discrepancy between Starbucks, who generated significant online orders through their app, and local businesses, who couldn’t afford an app. Peddicord built the product, then pulled in Bogus to help turn Brim into a solution for multiple businesses. Created with the intent of supporting local businesses, the app was launched in April 2020. Given the need, they never moved to a paid mode, and the app remains free for local coffeeshops. Currently, several Omaha and Lincoln coffeeshops are using the app, including Crescent Moon and the Mill.
The duo is continuing to improve the app and Jarod Aerts, a fellow Raikes School student, has joined them in their efforts. As students who want to run businesses someday, helping owners through challenging times made perfect sense—and added a sense of urgency to the solution they created. Leveraging their skills to help others, while developing their passion for entrepreneurship and computer science, has been a fulfilling way to spend their time away from campus.
“I appreciate the project-based, interdisciplinary nature of the Raikes School. Because of their curriculum, I feel prepared to make an impact at any job, from day one.”
“If we’re able to help even a few shops stay open, that’s a win for us,” said Peddicord.
Solving Problems and Developing Leaders
Helping businesses solve real-world problems is nothing new for Raikes School students. The school has a thorough application and interview process that helps them find young people who will succeed in the rigorous program and become future technology and business leaders. Students live and learn together while participating in a variety of experiences and classes that ensure they are well-rounded.
The Design Studio, the Raikes School’s capstone experience, pairs student teams with industry partners to create innovative solutions to complex challenges. Design Studio students receive mentorship from industry professionals while developing leadership, project management, analytical and communication skills. Because of the curriculum and training, Raikes School students are highly sought after. 99% of Raikes School students have internships for at least two summers, and all have jobs—or are accepted into graduate school—within three months of graduation.
Bogus, Peddicord and Aerts are currently seniors and looking ahead to the future. “We wouldn't have succeeded without the resources, learnings, and relationships we've obtained through our years at UNL and the Raikes School,” says Bogus. He is headed to Redmond, WA in August to work as a program manager for Microsoft. “The Raikes School gave me confidence in myself and my abilities and prepared me to work at one of the biggest tech companies in the world. Eventually, I hope to bring my collective experiences back to Nebraska.”
Discover our Podcast Series
“Leading Nebraska” tells the stories of researchers, students and staff who are making a real impact. Join us in March as we follow Chris Kratochvil, UNMC’s Global Center for Health Security Distinguished Chair. He discusses the world-renowned infectious disease center and how UNMC is providing solutions needed to face the next pandemic.