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App in Development to Empower Domestic Violence Victims

Two recent University of Arkansas at Little Rock graduates will compete at the Microsoft Imagine Cup Finals in April where they will present their Windows app to empower victims of domestic violence.

UALR alumni David Breeding and Timothy Henneberry will compete April 21-24 in Silicon Valley, a region in northern California known for its high-tech global industries. Breeding and Henneberry, members of the team "Abused Geeks," represent the seventh team to advance to finals since 2009.

More Than Just An App
If they win in their category, both Henneberry and Breeding will win $4,000 and represent the U.S. when they compete in Seattle in the World Competition.

Their app is called CAL123, and as innocuous as it sounds, it is more than what it appears. It looks and acts like a calculator, but when the correct pin is entered, it reveals its true purpose. "It's not supposed to look like an app for abuse victims," says Henneberry. "That's the most important part. It is designed to give domestic abuse survivors courage and the tools that they need to get out of an abusive relationship."

The app has the ability to take, store, and hide photos, videos, and sound recordings, which can then be sent to Microsoft's Cloud, OneDrive, to keep the media from being lost if the phone were destroyed. "This tool doesn't end domestic violence," says Breeding. "But it's definitely a tool that can provide courage, knowing that you now have the capability to document to build up a case to exit your abusive situation."

CAL123 also executes a panic text in the event of an emergency, which can be deployed to any chosen number. In the body of the text, the app will send a Google maps link with the victim's exact location and the login information for finding and tracking their phone.

"I feel like the panic texts are the most powerful part of the app. The panic texts are deployable using a voice command, which you set up. It can be anything from 'alert I need help' to 'apple pie.' It can be whatever you want it to be," Breeding adds.

Henneberry said their research indicated the varying 911 call response times can sometimes exceed an hour. "In an abusive situation, you don't need to wait an hour," he says. "You might need to get out of there fast. You text somebody 'help me' and they can give you a ride, or they can pull you out, or at least do something to intervene. And then at that point, turn it over to law enforcement," Henneberry adds.

Real-Life Inspiration
Henneberry and Breeding credit UALR Professor Janet Bailey as their inspiration for creating CAL123. Bailey provided the team with invaluable information about the app and gave the two members the tools to start out, according to Henneberry.

"Her knowledge and expertise in the field has been invaluable. Not only as an IT (information technology) professional, but as a person who was in an abusive relationship herself," he says. "She's definitely one of the strongest people I've ever met," adds Breeding. "Her courage is second to none, and that's what helped us. She sees the bigger picture, and she's really been the wind in our sails."

CAL123 is the largest project that Breeding and Henneberry have created. They started making the app in August, and now find themselves several months in, still adding small details to perfect it. Their app started out as a project for class, but Henneberry and Breeding did not want to develop CAL123 just to get by with a passing grade. "If technology can help somebody else, and if I can have a hand in that, I think it's absolutely wonderful. We hope to help fix the world just a little bit at a time," Henneberry says.

CAL123 is currently in the Windows Store, and Breeding and Henneberry intend for the app to always remain free. The next phase, after it is completely finished, is to bring it into the Droid market and then the iPhone market. While the app is in the store, the name is being changed to restore anonymity. "This is something that could really have a big impact," Henneberry adds. "Even if it only helps one person, it could be considered a success."

If the UALR team of Henneberry and Breeding win their category, they will compete against the winners from 116 countries at the World Competition, which will be held in July. On average, more than 500,000 students worldwide participate in Imagine Cup with only a few hundred making it to World Competition. There will be 46 or fewer students from across the U.S. who qualify for the U.S. Finals.

UALR holds the record of having the most teams go to national and world competition of any university in the country, and Bailey holds the record of mentoring more teams to compete in national and world competition of any faculty member in the country.

The UALR College of Business had a team at the World Competition in 2009 and 2010. UALR Engineering and Information Technology has had three teams go to nationals since 2010.

--Source: University of Arkansas at Little Rock