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Raikes School team rakes in $58K for top entry TradeKing API contest

The team of (from left) Derek Guenther, Clay Upton, Chris Johnson, Alec Johnston and Neema Bahramzad celebrates Wednesday night after learning it earned the top prize in TradeKing’s API contest. 

The team’s name was, admittedly, half-baked. But its work was worth half of $100K.

Five juniors from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln‘s Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management won $58,000 — $50,000 for the national grand prize, plus smaller school and regional prizes — Wednesday night for their entry in the TradeKing $100K API Campus Challenge. Sponsored by online stock and options broker TradeKing, the contest recognized the best applications built by college students to work with the company’s trading platform.

The winning team, made up of Neema Bahramzad, Derek Guenther, Chris Johnson, Alec Johnston and Clay Upton, dubbed itself Stock Bros. “We were just throwing out random names,” Bahramzad explained of the naming process in a phone interview Thursday. “And we said, ‘Ah, close enough. Stock Bros will do it.’ “

The group paid considerably closer attention to other aspects of its entry, which was comprised of three pieces: a Google Chrome browser extension, an Android application and a cloud-based notification service. A TradeKing press release outlined the functionality and distinguishing characteristics of the Stock Bros submission:

As a user browses the web, a Google Chrome extension scans pages for stock symbols and appends a stock quote to the page. When a quote is clicked, it opens a larger view of the quote along with a chart pulled from the Yahoo! Finance API, and joins with capabilities via the TradeKing API to add the symbol to a watchlist and even trade the stock through TradeKing, all without leaving the page where the symbol was located. From the browser extension, traders can further manage push notifications that are sent via their web service to the Android application. The app also features notification management.

“The Stock Bros team from the University of Nebraska rose to the top of our list based on the creative approach it took to app development, its underlying technical proficiency and its mashup of two additional APIs,” Don Montanaro, the CEO and Chairman of TradeKing, said in the release. “I congratulate the entire University of Nebraska, Lincoln community for this tremendous achievement.”

Bahramzad said the Chrome extension put the entry of over the top because, while offerings similar to what the Stock Bros team built are accessible on specific websites, nothing quite like it as widely available. 

“It’s browser specific, not website specific.” Bahramzad said. “I think just the convenience of not having to go out of your way to trade … we’re definitely focusing on people who do not have hours and hours of time during the day to be constantly checking the market and making trades.”

The team came together at the start of the fall semester at the urging of Raikes School director and finance professor Dr. David Keck. In total, eight UNL teams entered the contest. Another UNL team, called WYSIWYG, took home a $1,500 prize. 

(Left: The Stock Bros team poses with Keck.)

Bahramzad said Stock Bros spent the first half of the semester developing the idea and constructing a high-level software architecture plan, then got down to coding at about mid-term. The homestretch was a flurry of final exams sandwiched between 8-10 hours a day spent working on the project. “We were working on it a lot two weeks before the submission deadline,” Bahramzad said. “There were definitely a few all-nighters there.”

The end result was worth it. Stock Bros was selected from 27 national entries as one of five finalists. The team then learned its fate on Wednesday night, after presenting its project in a live online event. 

“We’re definitely focusing on people who do not have hours and hours of time during the day to be constantly checking the market and making trades.” – Neema Bahramzad 

“We were pretty hopeful that we were going to win (the regional prize),” Bahramzad said. “But winning the grand prize was definitely exciting, a surprise.”

Bahramzad said the team plans to split the money evenly, and he’s been contemplating how to spend his share of the pot.

“I think I’m going to get a new computer, since obviously that computer has been paying off,” he said, chuckling. “And probably invest the rest of it with TradeKing.”

Now that sounds like a fully fleshed-out plan.


Credits: Photos courtesy of Lori McClurg of the Raikes School. 

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