Many Four Diamonds families excitedly anticipate experiencing Penn State’s THON in the Bryce Jordan Center — but not every family is able to do so.
Now, for the families who are unable to attend the weekend-long event, the philanthropy will bring THON to them — through a new iOS app, THON AR.
THON AR is an app that intends to bring THON to the Hershey Medical Center through the use of augmented reality.
Kevin Gardner is one of the students who helped develop the app, which is currently free on the App Store, after hearing about the idea through his business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi.
“[Augmented reality is] using a camera to shape the world around you in ways that you normally couldn’t,” Gardner (sophomore-computer science) said. “It’s just magical.”
During THON weekend, posters will be placed all over the hallways of the hospital, and when children scan their iPhone or iPad over the poster, the app will recognize it, and the photo will come to life on their screen in the form of a video.
Some of the videos will feature the Pep Rally and the 2019 Line Dance, as well as messages from THON directors to the kids. In addition to the videos, there will be interactive aspects of the app. For example, kids can blow on the screen to blow bubbles, much like the kids in the Bryce Jordan Center get to do.
“The whole goal is just to think of something that could help the children who can’t attend THON weekend to feel included and feel just as involved in the Penn State environment as we are,” THON Public Relations Captain Anne Papandreas said.
Papandreas (sophomore-biobehavioral health) said she thinks it’s hard for someone to truly understand the THON experience without actually being there, so she hopes the app allows the kids who can’t make it to THON feel like they are a part of the experience.
The app was dreamt up by THON Public Relations Captain Katherine Finneran.
Finneran (senior-public relations), who was introduced to augmented reality during her internship with Showtime this past summer, became inspired to bring augmented reality to THON.
Papandreas teamed up with Finneran in taking the lead on the project.
While Finneran and Papandreas are the ones leading the project, they do not have any knowledge on computer coding, so they recruited computer science students such as Gardner to actually work on developing the app.
When Gardner heard about the project, he knew he wanted to be involved, and he said using the skills he has obtained through his major was the perfect way to contribute.
“THON weekend is such a magical time,” Gardner said. “I can’t imagine missing it.”
He further explained that because of this, he was happy to help the kids at Hershey Medical Center experience THON in some way, as well.
Papandreas and Finneran said while the THON livestream allows people to watch the magic of THON, they think this app will be a step up by allowing people to participate in it directly.
They hope that next year, THON will continue to use augmented reality for other events, such as the Family Carnival and the THON 5K. While Finneran is a senior, Papandreas, who is a sophomore, plans to continue to work on this project.
“Technology is shaping the world and THON is shaping life's moments,” Papandreas said. “So what better opportunity than to bring those together.”