University of Vermont

University Communications

Computer Science Students Launch Green Up Day App

Prospero Gogo
Outside the Public Works building on Pine Street in Burlington, UVM professor Prospero Gogo deposited trash as part of his volunteer effort for Vermont Green Up Day. He used a new smartphone app, made by UVM students, to help with the task. (Photo: Joshua Brown)

UVM professor of medicine Prospero Gogo has helped out with Vermont Green Up Day for seven years — but May 3 was his first with a new Green Up Vermont smartphone app.

Created by computer science major Joshua Dickerson and other UVM students and alumni, the app was designed to help volunteers across the state communicate with each other, get to work in places that most needed trash pick-up and alert organizers of hazardous materials that require special handing.

"The launch went great; we had close to 300 users registering over 12,000 heatmap points," Dickerson said, " All of the reviews have been great, so far, and a number of users have contributed some great feature ideas," that he hopes to incorporate into the app for next year's event.

“I saw the app on the Green Up Day website,” Gogo said, who was out on foot and bike picking up trash near Pine Street with his family. He noted several  “need help” spots identified on the app, but they were “all north of town, not here,” he said, getting back onto his bike.

“The Green Up App is an opportunity for volunteers to maximize their efforts,” says Dickerson, originally from Brookline, N.H. “We hope that people will feel part of a bigger operation rather than performing a duty more or less alone."

The Green Up app, available for iOS and mobile Web browsers, is a not-for-profit project developed by Xenon Apps, a start-up company led by Dickerson and other UVM students. It's designed to make the annual Green Up Day more efficient and organized, Dickerson says, while providing data to help coordinate future Green Up Days. This year was the 44th annual Green Up Day, a Vermont tradition since launched by Governor Deane Davis in 1970.

The app has been in development since it was started during the National Civic Day of Hacking hosted by CodeforBTV in June 2013.

There were four UVM students who led the development of  the new app, including Dickerson, Anders Melen '14, Ethan Eldridge '13, and Phelan Vendeville '13. Dickerson says they also received help from Colin Dewitt ‘'3, Paul Kiripolsky '15, Danielle Steimke '14, and Evan Yandell '13.

"Our system handled the load of the event extremely well," Dickerson said, "My team made a concerted effort to write very efficient server-side code as we knew that the Green-Up organization had no excess budget for supporting a lot of hardware expenses."

Dickerson, who will graduate from UVM in May, says this is the first app he has released. “The Green Up app is the first major release by Xenon Apps, but we are continuing to build our portfolio every day and expect to be releasing a series of new and innovative applications by the end of this year,” he says.

Portions of this story were adapted from Erica Housekeeper’s story on the blog UVM Brainwaves.