Free stuff motivates students to avoid phones in class

Nadine Tanjuakio l @nadinetanj

Sigma Chi brothers and schoolmates Mitch Gardner and Robert Richardson launched a new app called Pocket Points.

The app was designed to motivate students to not use their phones during class. If a user didn’t touch their phone, they would be rewarded a point after a certain amount of time. The time depends on how many users are currently on and what level he or she is.

“I was studying business marketing and Rob was taking up computer science,” Gardner said. ”We wanted to do something more than just an average job. We wanted to start our own company.”

The app founders are currently on break from studying at Chico State but the idea was planted during last year’s spring semester. They were able to launch the first version in fall 2014 for iOS users. This month, a version was made available for Android users.

“[Richardson] was in class one day, and saw everyone’s head down. That sparked an idea: what if we were to reward them for not being on their phones?” Gardner said. “We were spitting ideas back and forth until I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The next few weeks after that the idea progressed, turning the product into life.”

The fraternity brothers currently have 10 full-time employees that assisted in the app, which has over 100,000 downloads. The app has kept students from using their phones in class equivalent to 200 years worth of time.

Participating restaurants include Pita Pit, The Sandwich Spot, Wing Stop, Yogurtland and The Squeeze Inn.

“Any businesses surrounding college campuses always tries to get the attention of students,” Gardner said. “We’re bringing in a lot of them by having discounts to the stores and turn new customers into loyal customers.”

The co-founder mentioned the company’s goal contained three parts.

“One, we’ve got the user side. We want to make the students happy and we also want to make sure they are benefiting from this. Not only are they getting better grades, but also saving money,” Gardner said. “Two, we’ve got the teacher side. They just want more attentiveness in class and more productive lectures. And three, the business side. By creating new customers and turning them into loyal customers.”

To use Pocket Points, students can sign up by email or logging in through their Facebook account. They must enable location features so that it knows when the student is on campus or not.

Senior public relations student CJ Caraos has been using Pocket Points since school started two weeks ago and is currently at level 7.

“I have about 200 points and I’ve spent 50 on Wing Stop,” Caraos said. “That was my first time using it because it was the only one that offered a free meal.”

The more students use the app at the same time, the faster they can earn points. When they reach higher levels they can also earn points faster.

Junior business student Andrew Noble is at level 3. It took him a week to earn 31 points.

“I use the app every day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but sometimes I forget to turn the app on,” Noble said.

To earn points, users must open Pocket Points and lock their phone. If they opened another app, the earnings time pauses.

“I haven’t claimed my points yet but my friend April used hers for Wing Stop. She’s in love with Wing Stop so the app is pretty much a win and a dream come true for everyone,” Noble said. “Who doesn’t like free food?”

Pocket Points has a leaderboard where it highlights top earning users according to all time, weekly and daily points. It can also be filtered by a user’s school or all qualified schools.

The company has hosted launch events around college campuses and will schedule one for Sacramento State at an undetermined date.