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Chisel: Taking Notes Just Got a Whole Lot Easier

The increasing popularity of tablet devices has been accompanied by a flush of note taking applications. However, none of them seem to specifically address the needs of note takers in a class or meeting setting. Most are too focused on being the app for just one feature and serving a broad user base rather than integrating key functionality that appeals to a single user segment.

A team of Northwestern students set out to change this. They have developed Chisel, a note-taking app that seamlessly integrates typing, drawing, and document annotation. Instead of having to use two or three apps (e.g. one to type notes and one to draw graphs and charts), Chisel allows students to do both in one interface. Currently, some note taking apps offer features such as integration with DropBox or recording audio notes, yet none offer precisely what Chisel does.

A note-taking app was not what Kellogg first year Westin Hatch initially suggested. Once the other team members, Samantha Zhang, Amrit Kanesa-Thasan, and Alex Wilson joined him in the annual NUVention: Web class, the team pivoted from Hatch’s original idea, a word-processing app, to a note-taking app. Using students in the Kellogg Educational Technology Incubator (KETI) to test their market, they realized there was a real need for Chisel’s integrated note taking and graphic producing capabilities. With clear demand for the app, the team members split responsibilities for development of different aspects of the app: Zhang worked on the front-end design, Wilson on the coding, and Kanesa-Thasan and Hatch on the business and marketing aspects.

Having started in January, Chisel is now a reality, having submitted the app to Apple’s app store last week. The app is free for use in four classes, after which students can purchase a premium version of the app for use in unlimited classes. While currently only offered for iPad, they plan to increase their offer platforms to Android and other tablets in the future.

The group has also participated in start up competitions to try and win funding. In the Northwestern InNUvation competition, the group was one of six teams to advance to the semifinal round, allowing them to compete on May 8th at the final event. They will compete to be one of the three teams to win various amounts of funding. The team plans to use this money to market their app to college students around the country.

At the semifinals, one of the judges, Gary Dollinger, Chief Executive Officer of Adalyze Technologies, said that he believed chisel had the “potential to go viral.” Responding to Mr. Dollinger’s comment, Hatch said the group was “humbled” but that he understood no one could accurately predict virility. He stressed that funding for marketing is integral even if Chisel went viral.

Aside from the Northwestern InNUvation competition, the team is also a semifinalist for Dashfire Launch, which would provide office space and a stipend that allow the team to work on Chisel over the summer.

“Were very passionate about this as a team and we are very excited,” Hatch said conclusively, “we think a lot of other students will be too once they have Chisel in their hands.”

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