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Play Palo Alto Wins First Palo Alto Apps Challenge

Play Palo Alto Wins First Palo Alto Apps Challenge

With the idea to use gaming as a way to encourage Palo Alto residents to do volunteer work and become more civically involved in their community, the Play Palo Alto app was named the winner of the first Palo Alto Apps Challenge. 

Winners were announced on May 31 in front of a live audience at the Midpeninsula Community Media Center. The apps Adopt Me! and Enabled City took second and third place respectively.

The Apps Challenge was created as a follow-up to last year's highly successful CityCamp Palo Alto civic innovation event in conjunction with the National Day of Civic Hacking. While CityCamp focused on idea generation, the Apps Challenge moved to apps creation. The competition asked for applicants to submit their ideas for a civic app that would enhance the engagement between local government and its citizens. 

Out of 74 apps that were submitted to the competition, the field was narrowed down to 10 finalists by a team of judges that included Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shepherd and several Silicon Valley executives. Community members then had the opportunity to go online and vote for the app they wanted to win. Over 3,200 people voted.

The winning app, Play Palo Alto, was spearheaded by Francesco Ferrari, an Italian college student who is working in Palo Alto for the year as an intern with Cisco. Ferrari enlisted the help of a few friends—Allie Ahn, Richard Logan, Aris Iliopoulos and Nikos  Bregiannis—to help with the creation of the app. Using the principles of gamification, the team hopes to reinvent the way Palo Alto visitors and residents interact with the City. The app will contain a series of challenges and missions for both residents and visitors to complete, which will allow them to earn points that can be redeemed for coupons at local businesses and restaurants.

Second place app, Adopt Me!, is all about helping to get shelter animals adopted quickly. The app would pull data on animals that is already in the Animal Services system. The animals would also have profiles that shelter volunteers could upload fun and playful pictures to and write tidbits about the animals on. This app was created by a team of people including Cynthia Typaldos, Ruthellen Dickinson, Brian Smith, Nancy Cook, Helena Merk, Justine Hirsch, Cynthia Chou, Kayla Block, Bhanu Iyer, Claudine Lundgren, and advisors Rob Blackwelder and Frank Spies.

Michael Simkovic’s third place app, Enabled City, aims to create a crowd-sourced database of places accessible for handicapped citizens to help increase their quality of life in Palo Alto.

For more information on the Palo Alto Apps Challenge, visit

Last Updated: June 2, 2014