April Tech Student(s) of the Month: Jake and Sam

Sam and JakeApril has been an event filled month for the Tech Student community and especially so for our Windows Phone app developers! In accordance with all the buzz around Windows Phone 7, we have named a team of two successful student WP7 app developers, Jake Poznanski and Sam Kaufmann, as the Tech Student(s) of the month! Jake and Sam are currently seniors studying computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. They have been recognized by Microsoft for their effective use of the Windows Phone 7 Advertisement SDK in their apps. They are also the subjects of a Microsoft conducted case study outlining the value in employing the Ad SDK. The team is gaining further recognition for their widely popular and successful apps, Word Search and Spades to name a few. Jake and Sam are setting great examples for student WP7 developers everywhere; here is their story.

Before teaming up during college, Jake and Sam had different experiences leading up to their mutual interests in mobile app development. Sam was interested in photography in his earlier years until he took a computer science course that sparked his interest in software development. Having always been very math-oriented, he enjoyed the similarities between programming and math such as problem solving and logical analysis. He furthered his interest in computer science by taking on summer internships based around software engineering: one at NASA’s Undergraduate Student Research Program and another with the IBM Extreme Blue Program. These experiences cemented Sam’s desire to start making his own apps.

The other half of the team, Jake Poznanski, was born into a world of computing. His father worked in the computer industry after college and taught Jake the in’s and out’s of creating a game on the computer. Jake created simple mobile games as a child and upon seeing them rise in popularity, he became inspired to create more products that users could enjoy.

Jake and Sam joined efforts at Carnegie Mellon University where they are currently both seniors. The team started out as friends and then eventually became hallmates in the same house. As hallmates, Sam would visit Jake, who was often times found in his room working on various coding projects. Sam’s curiosity about these projects budded into a shared interest for game and mobile development. The team began working together on coding simple mobile apps and upon hearing about the new Windows Phone platform, they found the platform to be easy to work with and a perfect fit for deploying mobile apps. One of their first apps, Solitaire, was a great success in the Marketplace which ignited the team to continue their thriving app development.

Sam and Jake initially began to divide up the work according to their respective skills but as time went on they intersected abilities as well as learned from one another to refine their existing skill sets. For the most part, Jake works on the user experience aspects of the games while Sam focuses on the coding styles and game logic. What has set them apart in the Windows Phone Marketplace is their focus on quality and detail. For example, they understand the importance of graphics and visual effects to the success of user–likability so they outsource their graphics and designs through Elance to a professional designer. The team uses XNA Game Studio to quickly and efficiently create high quality apps. All students can download XNA for free from the DreamSpark program. XNA is their preferred developing program because it is simple to use and time-efficient. The team can use XNA to create the skeleton of an app in a matter of a few hours, often times in between classes or before bed.

In terms of the team’s overall success in the Windows Phone Marketplace, Jake and Sam have 10 apps out in the Marketplace that are being downloaded a total of 4,000-5,000 times a day. They have had a total of 250,000 total downloads across all of their apps. Their Word Search app just recently reached a great milestone of 1 million posted high scores! Not to mention—from advertisement alone—the team has made over $12,500 using Microsoft’s Ad SDK. The SDK has allowed them to take their passion for app development and turn it into a lucrative business. They made the decision to create ad-supported apps because they recognized that users often times sidestep paid apps when exploring the Marketplace. This decision has contributed tremendously to the team’s overall success. Instead of earning 99¢ per download, they are making money from ads every time their app is being used. The usability of the ad support is also a key reason why the team stands by it. They describe the ad control library provided by Microsoft pubCenter as being “unrivaled in simplicity and quality.”

The team just released their latest game called Mars Runner yesterday. It’s a racing game where you help the human race survive while moving up through the ranks to become the next president of Mars. It’s got some really cool graphics and features plus it’s free! You can download it here. Screenshot5

In regards to plans for the future, Jake and Sam have been hired at different companies for after graduation. Jake plans to work in Los Angeles with SpaceX, a space exploration technology company, while Sam has been hired on with Amazon in Seattle. Although they will live in different states, they plan to continue their WP7 development on a part-time basis. They hope to communicate regularly and coordinate time to sustain their great teamwork. We want to congratulate them for all their amazing successes and hope they continue to set a great example for student developers everywhere!

If you are fellow student and are inspired by this team’s achievements, join the Windows Phone 7 Student App-a-thon! Submit your apps for a chance to receive great prizes such as a new Xbox 360 game and more. Visit the site for more information on how to participate. You could be the next big Windows Phone 7 developer!

Join our Microsoft Tech Student community on Facebook and tell us your story!

Read last month’s Tech Student Profile on Kenneth Harding

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