Sharkey, who graduated with his master's degree in May, entered the software design challenge earlier this year. The contest was designed to get developers working on programs for Android, Google's new cell phone operating system.
The Minnesota native's entry, CompareEverywhere -- formerly dubbed AndroidScan -- uses a cell phone's camera to read the barcode on any product. The program then uses the phone's Internet connection to search Web sites for information about that product, such as reviews, prices, excerpts, online vendors and nearby stores selling that item.
In May, Sharkey, 23, learned that his program placed in the top 50 out of nearly 1,800 entries, netting him $25,000. He and the other top 50 spent the summer refining their programs and entered them for final judging in early August.
"It's exciting, but it's not just about this one application for me anymore," said Sharkey, who has a penchant for taking on side projects. "As I've been digging deeper into Android, I've started working on other things that I'm excited about as well."
After Sharkey's top-50 finish, he received job offers from major companies around the country. He's still considering those, but now, with $275,000 in his pocket, Sharkey's also thinking about working on some of his new projects full-time and maybe even starting a business.
"The experience has definitely made me think harder about what I want to do," he said.
While studying at MSU, Sharkey researched intelligent, radio-based rural transportation networks. He also worked as a student fellow at MSU's Western Transportation Institute.
Sharkey praised the connections he made with other students during his time at MSU. "It was really a great place to come together and meet other smart people and connect with them," he said.
For related stories see:
"MSU graduate places among top 50 in Google's Android Developer Challenge," http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=6005, June 18, 2008
Micron visits campus to announce MSU's key status, April 19, 2002 http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=240
Two MSU students receive NSF research fellowships, May 30, 2008 http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=5889