SMU students invent a new kind of Sidekick

Irisa Ona and Austin Wells invent an app that provides quick help with acts of kindness

Everybody’s been there: A clear day turns to rain when they’ve forgotten their umbrella, or their phone battery is low and they’ve misplaced their charger. Thanks to a pair of Mustangs, help in those situations is just a click away.

Sidekick, a new app from recent graduate Irisa Ona and senior Austin Wells, promises to connect folks who need a hand with those willing to provide one.

“If our app determines it’s about to start raining and you need to walk to class in 10 minutes, we’ll offer to dispatch someone with an umbrella immediately,” says Wells, a computer science major in the Lyle School of Engineering. “Or if we see it’s exam weekend and you’re still up at 2 a.m., we might offer a cup of coffee.”

The pair met in an interdisciplinary engineering class, “Building Creative Confidence,” in fall 2014. They came up with Sidekick while collaborating on SMU’s Big iDeas project in January 2015. Ona says the biggest challenge to creating Sidekick was learning to efficiently work together.

“(We) think differently, speak different languages when it comes to talking about work, we prioritize tasks differently, and overall, we work differently,” says Ona, who earned a B.A. degree in advertising and communications from Meadows School of the Arts in May. “The more we worked together, the more we learned and began to understand each other’s disciplines. When we go out in the real world, work is interdisciplinary, so we’re really glad to have gotten a little bit of that while in school.”