Virtual Party School

UW undergrads create an app to help students safely socialize during the pandemic.

Sidewalk chalk writing reads, "Meet new friends on campus"

For all their computer wizardry, the undergrads who created Spacebar got the word out through low-tech means. Courtesy of Spacebar

You’re a UW–Madison student who can’t go to clubs or parties during the pandemic. Is there any option besides staying home alone?

Now there is: you can stay home and join a virtual meetup. A group of enterprising UW students has created a free app called Spacebar, which brings the party to you through an ingenious concept.

At a set time, called “happy hour,” students can hop on Spacebar alone or with a friend. The app randomly connects them with one or two others from the UW campus for a short video call. The participants can press a button to continue talking or move on to another random conversation.

“It’s kind of like speed dating,” says cofounder Matthew Kruepke x’22, “but just to make friends.”

A 10-person team of undergraduates launched Spacebar during the 2021 spring semester after an intense period of brainstorming and development. For all their computer wizardry, they got the word out through low-tech means, including chalked messages on campus sidewalks.

The strong response suggests that their new product has touched a nerve.

“We just want to help students during the pandemic, when it’s so hard to meet people on campus,” says Kruepke. “It’s a way to get the college experience that so many people don’t have right now because of COVID-19.”

Tags: Business, social media, Student life, technology

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