A company owned by University of Nebraska-Lincoln students grew out of a love for dining hall chicken strips.
John Hotovy wanted to be able to locate his beloved fowl strips on any given day, so in fall 2010 he wrote a computer application to point him toward the right dining halls.
He and roommate Will Coover converted that gastric weathervane into a mobile app that students could use to view UNL dining hall menus on smart phones.
"We started working right then and there on a mobile interface," Coover said. "Before we knew it, we had a working product."
Hotovy and Coover sold that app to UNL for a small sum, and in March 2011 they started Atonality Mobile, which has since developed one of the most popular music apps for Androids.
David Keck, director of the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management at UNL, said he knows of many students developing mobile apps.
One company formed by three UNL seniors last year produced a popular app that allows users to publicly post resumes and work examples.
The Raikes school encourages students to incorporate their passions into their coursework, he said.
"When they're working on something they're really interested in, they're learning more computer science, more finance," he said.
Last month, three UNL students formed Wombo Mobile and began work on a mobile app that will allow users to share and retrieve movie sounds. Paul Poulsen, 19, said it will likely be available for free but should provide advertising revenue.
Brian Clymer, Wombo lead developer, said the company likely will focus on Android apps, because the company charges developers a one-time $25 fee. Apple charges a $99 developer fee plus $20 per application.
Clymer said he personally had developed applications that have garnered about 25,000 total downloads and earned him about $100.
"I've written a couple apps in under a day," he said. "If it's a bigger project, it can take months of working everyday, even in a team."
Coover, president of Atonality Mobile, said 1.9 million users have downloaded his company's Tune Me app. Tune Me lets users record themselves and automatically corrects their pitch.
The idea came from a similar iPhone app. Most users have downloaded the free Tune Me version, but about 20,000 have downloaded a $3.99 upgrade. Among other features, it allows users to set their performances to downloaded music. Android takes about a third of the profits from applications that aren't free.
"We released it, and it just went crazy," Coover said. "If you can't sing, it will turn you into a perfect singer every time."
Coover, 20, plans to speak at this year's Infotec Conference, an IT and business conference to be held April 17-18 in Omaha. At past Infotec Conferences, he said, older audience members have asked him why he's there.
"When we get to walk up and say we're developers of our own product," he said, "it's cool to see the looks on their faces."