FGCU team to compete in competition hosted by Best Buy founder

Protecting the vulnerable, an FGCU student has a chance to win the big bucks in a competition after creating an app to help his brother who has down syndrome. He’s one of two student team putting FGCU in the national spotlight.

FGCU student John Ciocca, developer of Ciocca Apps, told WINK News what he would do with the money from an upcoming competition.

“Show and tell apps,” Ciocca said.

That’s what Ciocca wants for youBelong, the social media app he developed to connect people with special needs. The concept was originally inspired by his brother.

MORE: Bonita Springs teen creates apps to help community with special needs

“For the 25 teams, there’s $250,000 on the table,” Ciocca said.

And he might get that soon, thanks to Best Buy Founder Richard Schulze.

Every year, Schulze invites 25 student teams to Minneapolis for a chance at big money and big-time exposure. The FGCU team leaves for Minneapolis in three weeks.

“Applying to these competitions and taking it to the next stage, and FGCU is allowing us to do this,” Ciocca said.

But Ciocca isn’t the only FGCU team, a huge feat for the university’s young program, putting them head-to-head with Ivy League schools.

“This year, we got two groups in,” said Dr. Sandra Kauanui, director of FGCU’s Institute of Entrepreneurship.

Also, from FGCU competing, a biology student’s patent to measure CBD in products.

Kauanui calls both projects major innovations in their field.

“We’re sending a message that FGCU is getting on the national records,” Kauanui said.

Ciocca agrees with Kauanui.

“What we’re working on is really making a difference,” Ciocca said. “And that they want to help us move to the next stage.”

The next step for youBelong are upgrades to the logo, new features that includes writing code that would block out key hateful and derogatory words. Ciocca said the upgrades can be expected this summer.

This is something that Kauanui said may seem simple but could change the world for people.

“Not only are our kids entrepreneurial and innovative and creative, but they care about this world,” Kauanui said.

Reporter:John-Carlos Estrada
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