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UL Students ‘Dryve’ App Development for Local Startup


Photo 1(L-R) Katherine Nebel, Development Manager, Opportunity Machine; Destin Ortego, Executive Director, Opportunity Machine; Mark Coniglio, Devin Barras, Kelly Hebert, Founder, Dryve, Chris Kimmel, Chief Innovation Officer, Informatics Research Institute; and Robert Hebert, Founder, Dryve.

February 6, 2024

(LAFAYETTE, LA) Last semester, Dryve, a locally founded navigation app that helps parents find food fast along a particular route, joined forces with UL Lafayette senior computer science students Devin Barras and Mark Coniglio through a new community partnership between the Opportunity Machine (OM), a local startup support organization, and the Informatics Research Institute at UL Lafayette. The goal of the partnership was to give students a chance to gain real-world experience and skills in carrying out a project in a multidisciplinary team while giving early-stage startup founders access to the high-quality technical talent that they need to launch a tech product. 

The partnership with UL Lafayette is a win-win for both the industry and students. The collaboration gives students real-world application of marketable skills, approaches business outcomes with a human-centered approach, and presents a compelling project-based learning experience to employers on a student’s resume, all while helping local startups reach key product development milestones. 

As graduation approached, student Mark Coniglio wanted an opportunity to work with clients to get the full experience of building an app and problem-solving through development. He says he is grateful to Professor Henry Chu and Ms. Nona Istre in the School of Computing and Informatics for recommending the program. 

The opportunity to navigate through the development of an app and problem solving is an invaluable experience. Professor Henry Chu said, “Teamwork and communication are the best soft skills to put on a student's resume.” After finishing their Senior Project, the students received a final grade based on the quality of their work. The students must keep in mind that the application will be presented to potential investors. Therefore, they must guarantee that it meets and exceeds the expectations of investors, stakeholders, and future app users.

Kelly Hebert, founder of Dryve, said “I was impressed by their ability to take what they learned in the classroom and use it in a real-world application. They were both willing to test different solutions to several complex problems until we had results that worked.” “Their ability to dive into an existing codebase, familiarize themselves with a language they hadn't worked with, and quickly become contributors was very impressive.” 

The students worked with Dryve software developer, Matthew McKey, a self-taught developer, who shared, “to have access to two such students with an established computer science background to apply to the real-world business requirements of our application development was truly invaluable.”

Kelly and her husband Robert were ideal candidates to pilot this partnership program because they had already done extensive work to de-risk their startup concept and determine what key features and functionalities of the app needed to be built when they went through Opportunity Machine’s entry-level startup accelerator program, Builder Program 1.0.

Kelly Hebert said, “I am honored to have been given the opportunity to work with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette through their partnership with the Opportunity Machine. Dryve app is something that I truly hope will play a vital role in the future of safer navigation, and Devin and Mark’s technical expertise and collaborative spirit have undoubtedly played a pivotal role in the progress of Dryve.”

After seeing the success of the pilot partnership, Opportunity Machine, and the University plan to formalize this partnership, pairing more students with local startups this upcoming semester as a part of Opportunity Machine’s more advanced startup accelerator program, Builder Program 2.0.

The Lafayette business community is encouraged to take advantage of the pool of local talent at our Carnegie R1 university.

If you are interested in learning more about community collaborations with students at UL Lafayette, please contact Chris Kimmel, Chief Innovation Officer at the Informatics Research Institute or send a message to

If you are a current student and interested in opportunities related to startup businesses and entrepreneurship, please contact the Opportunity Machine at or visit to learn more. 

About Opportunity Machine (OM)

The OM’s mission is to support and elevate early-stage technology, research-driven, and innovative startups. Their focus lies in nurturing tech and tech-enabled ventures through specialized business education, targeted mentorship, strategic networking opportunities, and a workspace environment designed to meet high-growth startups’ dynamic needs. 

About the Informatics Research Institute (IRI)

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette's Informatics Research Institute (IRI) is a department of the Office of the Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Economic Development. The Institute utilizes data science and informatics research to positively impact the community in various sectors, including population health, public safety, big data visualization, community resilience, and cybersecurity. Please visit or send a message to