Ur Next Route: Revolutionizing campus safety with innovation and inclusivity

Students combine innovative technology and collaborative efforts to create a safety app at the University of Nevada, Reno

A student shakes hands with a University police officer across a table during a tabling event where the app is on display.

Ur Next Route: Revolutionizing campus safety with innovation and inclusivity

Students combine innovative technology and collaborative efforts to create a safety app at the University of Nevada, Reno

A student shakes hands with a University police officer across a table during a tabling event where the app is on display.

In today's world, where safety concerns often loom over the daily lives of college students, the need for innovative solutions to address these issues is paramount. Inspired by a shared vision to ensure the safety of all individuals on the University’s campus, students Michael Munakash, Anna Desorcy, Kathleen Scafidi and Kurtis Bertauche from the CS 426 senior project in computer science class embarked on a journey to create Ur Next Route, a mobile safety application designed to prioritize the well-being of students and faculty navigating through campus environments. 

“Some of the most impactful features include route guidance, pin placement for safety concerns or maintenance, and an emergency call system,” according to the app’s website. “The routing system takes many parameters into account when generating the safest route. Distance to destination and lighting levels are some of the features taken into consideration when the routing system generates the safest path. There are a variety of pins that can be utilized to inform other users of hazards around campus. Pins that will be incorporated in the application include, but are not limited to, ‘I didn’t feel safe,’ ‘Maintenance needed here,’ and ‘Trip/Fall Hazard.’ Our goal for the pin functionality is to provide  ‘real-time’ updates for our users to view while maintaining their privacy.” 

A woman is speaking with President Sandoval as he looks at a poster explaining the safety app.President Sandoval learned about the safety app during Innovation Day.

The genesis of Ur Next Route stems from a deeply rooted desire to empower individuals, particularly women, to walk home safely at night. Recognizing that other campus community members share similar safety concerns, the team made a conscious decision to open the application to all users, thereby broadening its reach and impact. Drawing inspiration from their own experiences and observing the limitations of existing safety apps like Safe Pack, the team set out to create a comprehensive solution tailored to the unique needs of campus life. For many members of the team, walking around campus at night has not always been with a feeling of security. With the campus situated near the downtown area, encounters with individuals causing discomfort and unease were not uncommon and the team saw an opportunity to fill a crucial gap in campus safety measures. “This technology is incredible and has the potential to have a profound impact on the safety of students on our campus,” said Chief of Police, Eric James.

Students looking at the app on a phone at the booth during Innovation Day.
Innovation Day attendees got to look at the app on a phone while the team explained its development.

The development journey of Ur Next Route was not without its challenges. From conceptualizing the features to navigating the intricacies of user interface, user experience, (UI/UX) design, the team faced numerous hurdles along the way. However, their unwavering dedication and collective learning mindset propelled them forward, culminating in the creation of a feature-rich and user-friendly application. One of the pivotal moments in the development process was the realization that none of the team members had prior experience in creating a mobile app. This served as both a challenge and an opportunity for growth, as they embarked on a journey of learning and skill acquisition that would not only benefit the project but also their professional trajectories moving forward. As Ur Next Route can be further developed to make its mark on campus life, the team envisions its widespread adoption by the University and beyond. With a keen focus on promoting safety and inclusivity, the application holds the potential to serve as a beacon of hope for campuses across Nevada and beyond. 

Reflecting on the impact of Ur Next Route on their professional development, Munakash, Desorcy, Scafidi and Bertauche emphasize the invaluable skills acquired throughout the project. From mobile app development to database management, effective communication, and teamwork, the journey has equipped them with a versatile skill set that will undoubtedly serve them well in their future endeavors.

Four students stand behind a desk at Innovation Day where they presented their safety app.

Most notably, Ur Next Route's groundbreaking impact earned them the prestigious Global Impact Award and a substantial cash prize at the annual College of Engineering’s Innovation Day. This recognition not only validates the team's dedication and hard work but also propels Ur Next Route into the spotlight as a trailblazer in campus safety technology. “One of the most frequent questions I get from incoming and current students is ‘How can I navigate campus safely at night?’ I think this app has incredible potential to reduce the opportunity for crime to happen based on generating routes using the most well-lit path and I am so inspired by this group’s desire to make campus safer for all,” says Madison Eifert, the community relations specialist for University Police and the group’s external advisor. 

The team extends their heartfelt gratitude to their external advisor, Madison Eifert, and the CS 426 teaching staff, including Dave Feil-Seifer, Sara Davis, Vinh Le, Devrin Lee and Zach Estreito, for their invaluable support and guidance throughout the project. Their mentorship played a crucial role in shaping the success of Ur Next Route and deserves recognition and appreciation.

Furthermore, the team expresses sincere appreciation to the College of Engineering's Innovation Day sponsors, including Nevada National Security Sites, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Southwest Gas Corporation Foundation, who provided support to many of this year's senior capstone projects. Their support was instrumental in bringing many of the projects to fruition.

While Ur Next Route's impact has been recognized with prestigious awards and accolades, it's important to note that the app is not currently available for download. However, the team remains optimistic about its potential future availability. With further development and support, there's a strong possibility that Ur Next Route could one day become accessible to campuses nationwide, furthering its mission to prioritize safety and inclusivity for all.

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