Freedom to Be Free

By Olivia Dimmer
Freedom to Be Free
Vinesh Kannan and Brendan Batliner

If there’s one assignment universally loathed by college students, it’s the group project.

Computer science third-year students Brendan Batliner and Vinesh Kannan have experienced firsthand the struggles of coordinating schedules, holding group members accountable for pulling their weight, and communicating these roadblocks to their professors.

So, true to their entrepreneurial spirit, the pair developed an app to solve these challenges.

“A problem that we always noticed is that everyone is so busy with their individual lives they can’t commit to good teamwork,” Batliner says. “This is a group scheduling tool to help people not have the excuse of ‘I don’t have any time.’”

With some guidance from Illinois Tech Coleman Foundation Clinical Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship Nik Rokop, the duo launched Omnipointment in January 2016.

More than 50 Illinois Tech students attended a hack night event at Lyft's new Chicago hub that Vinesh Kannan (CS 3rd year) helped organize
Freedom to Be Free

The scheduling application allows groups to share appointments and suggests meeting times that work for everyone. It also prevents double-booking and keeps group members accountable by showing how much free time they actually have in a day.

“Working on a personal project and applying what students learn in class to that project makes their learning much more meaningful and gives the student a sense of ownership of learning they don’t otherwise get,” Rokop says. “It is inspirational for me to see my students succeed and to have a small part in their success. I learn from them as much as they learn from me, and I develop lifelong friendships with these amazing young people.”

The app has recently been sold to Mimir, an Indianapolis-based computer science-education business. As part of the acquisition, Kannan has joined the Mimir team and will launch his postgraduate career as head of curriculum development.

The software developed by Batliner and Kannan is currently being used by more than 95 universities around the country, including Illinois Tech.

“We are so proud to say the Illinois Tech computer science department is a customer of ours,” Kannan says. “We not only got to work with and learn from professors and to interview students and professors, but we have a business relationship on tap on campus.”

Since its acquisition by Mimir, Omnipointment has been modified to allow professors to keep track of group projects and to address any issues early on. Both creators say the assistance they received from the university was instrumental in helping get their idea off the ground.

“We’re both lifelong learners who are going to enjoy learning whether we’re in the classroom or not,” Kannan says. “We wanted to be able to demonstrate, irrespective of grades and degrees, we are capable of growing. That’s why having mentors like Nik are super valuable; he has insights that extend beyond the classroom to push us and help us reflect on how we can be better.”