Marriott Alumni Magazine

Summer 2014

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Page 27 of 51

Inside the Classroom Off-Campus Housing 2.0 Three tech-savvy students have redesigned a BYU rite of passage: the search for Provo housing. Heather Dunnigan has spent hours futilely searching for housing, and she’s not alone. Students enter the Provo scene hoping to find the perfect digs—close to campus and packed with amenities. However, the information needed to make a housing decision is often scattered, outdated, or inaccurate. But thanks to a trio of second-year master of information systems students, searching for a Provo pad just got simpler. Dunnigan teamed up with Tyson Bearnson and Wesley Johnson to create the dynamic website, which lets students search for single or married housing based on factors like price, amenities, and location. Students can also see how long it takes to walk from an apartment to campus, how much the rental is worth compared to what renters pay, and how amenities affect price. Last winter Dunnigan and Bearnson were traveling together when the conversation turned to ideas for their upcoming capstone project. Dunnigan reflected on her frustrating experiences searching for housing. Confident that a project confronting Provo’s housing problem would fit the bill, they teamed up with Johnson and presented the idea to professor Greg Anderson. “When we do capstone projects in the master’s course, we want them to be a service,” Anderson says. “I liked the idea, but I counseled them to first talk with BYU Off-Campus Housing to make sure they could implement it.” BYU Housing gave the project the green light, providing the students with access to numerous resources. Then the real work began. “The more we got into it, the more we kept asking, ‘Why are there only three of us?’” laughs Dunnigan, who hails from Canton, Michigan. “After getting the go-ahead, we defined what our site would include—comprehensive data, dynamic search capabilities, analysis of amenities, housing values, and a walk score.” To stay on track, the team divided the semester into two-week intervals and focused their energy in four main areas: fine-tuning the idea, gathering data, developing the website, and finding advertisers. “We were able to incorporate some very cool, cutting-edge data techniques to give students everything they need to find the best value,” says Bearnson, who grew up in Bountiful, Utah. “We want to become the housing-information hub.” Though the capstone project originally required 150 individual hours, each team member ended up clocking more than double that. That came as no surprise to Anderson. “Heather is a problem solver, Tyson demands professional output, and Wesley is a people person,” Anderson says. “That’s a strong team. When you take the skills they have and their goodness, you get great results.” —Spencer Wright

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