An App A Day

April 26, 2015

The following article appears in the April/May 2015 issue of Athletic Management.

When Auburn University athletes hit the road this spring, a new smartphone app will help them find healthy eating options in unfamiliar territory. Developed by Sports Dietitian Scott Sehnert in conjunction with the school’s Information Technology Department, the tool features menu recommendations and GPS-enabled directions for restaurants in each Southeastern Conference city.

Athletes can download the app to their smartphones and use it whenever hunger strikes. “We had the baseball team in mind when we created this,” says Sehnert. “On the road, and even when they’re near campus, those guys were constantly texting me to ask where they should eat and what they should eat. Sometimes they were standing in line at a restaurant and by the time I got back to them they had already ordered.

“A while back, one of my graduate assistants and I were talking about how cool it would be to have an app to solve the problem,” Sehnert continues. “She looked into it and found it would be really expensive—$20,000 to $40,000—and the thought went away.”

A few months later, however, Sehnert discovered that the university IT department uses students to create apps at a more reasonable rate. “I spent an hour with an IT department employee tossing ideas around about what kind of features the app should have,” he says. “From there, they developed a beta version that my graduate assistants, interns, and I played with for a week to provide feedback.”

Meanwhile, one of Sehnert’s interns created a database of restaurants to put in the app. “Developing menu recommendations wasn’t difficult because nutrition information is readily available online, especially for the more popular franchises our athletes like to go to,” he says.

Early feedback has been extremely positive. “We’re always trying to educate our athletes, which the app helps us accomplish in an uncomplicated and highly accessible manner,” Sehnert says. “By working with the campus IT department, it ended up costing only $2,200 to create, so pursuing it was a no-brainer.”

 

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