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New Trier students fill dance cards with high tech data

New Trier High School students Andy Feis (left) and Dylan Cable show off their Dancematch website, which matches up New Trier students with dates for the Oct. 19 homecoming dance. | Steve Schering/Sun-Times Media
New Trier High School students Andy Feis (left) and Dylan Cable work on their Dancematch website, which matches up New Trier students with dates for the Oct. 19 homecoming dance. | Steve Schering/Sun-Times Media
New Trier High School student Dylan Cable's t-shirt advertises the Dancematch website, a site created by New Trier students to arrange dates for the Oct. 19 homecoming dance. | Steve Schering/Sun-Times Media

The high school tradition of the homecoming dance has met its match with modern technology thanks to the creation of four New Trier students.

Launched at the beginning of the school year, Dancematch brings a new twist to finding a date to New Trier’s Oct. 19 homecoming dance.

“There was a dance in February and I was thinking about a lot of things,” New Trier senior Andy Feis said. “People were having trouble asking people, people were being asked by people they didn’t want to go with and I was trying to think of a solution for them. People may not know who they want to go with, they may be too shy to ask, are scared of getting rejected, or if you’re a girl you have to wait for somebody to ask you.”

Feis then enlisted the help of friend and fellow New Trier senior Dylan Cable. Feis came up with the idea of the website and Cable used his computer skills to make it happen.

Not long after, thedancematch.com was up and running. The site allows New Trier students to log in, create a profile and rank 1 through 15 the people they would most like to attend the dance with. An algorithm is then used for each profile to ensure the most desirable and highest number of dates are matched.

“If someone has you on your list we’ll try to match you up,” Cable said. “The only way two people can be matched up is if they have each other on their list. With the algorithm we wanted to maximize the number of matches.”

The site launched this spring and the duo worked on it over the summer to ensure everything would run smoothly in time for homecoming.

Feis and Cable took the security of each student very seriously as nobody can see the individual lists created or the matches of each user.

“I called a friend from Germany I met at (The University of California, Berkely) at a summer program,” Cable said. “He put me in touch with his other friend and we Skyped for two hours. We completely changed the site so it’s completely secure and can handle everybody using it at once.”

The data of the website becomes secured into a random set of letters and numbers, something not even the creators of the site can access.

“Your password immediately gets encrypted into a random string of letters,” Cable said. “Even if I wanted to find out somebody’s password I couldn’t.”

At the beginning of the school year, fellow students Danny Hines and Noah Quinn joined Cable and Feis to help market the site. The foursome distributed business cards, created T-shirts and used social media to attract attention to Dancematch.

After a marketing push, more than 300 New Trier students signed up to receive a match from the site.

“The 318 students signed up mostly came in the first days or so when we were really pushing the site,” Feis said. “What we realized is due to the timing a lot of people had been asked already. We decided to go with the group we have instead of bombarding people with the same info.”

After giving New Trier students enough time to complete the registration process, the users were free to edit their list of 15 preferred matches. Match day was Sept. 25 as users logged in to receive their match, giving students plenty of time to make plans with their match for the homecoming dance.

“Most people like the idea but are hesitant to do something so different from what has already been done,” Feis said. “If you would have said 10 years ago a place like Twitter with a hashtag would be a huge thing people would say it sounds like a weird idea. We’ll keep tinkering with the concept and see what people grab onto. If it catches on, great.”

The Dancematch team also has higher aspirations, perhaps using the site as a way for groups to make plans for attending dances after they have been matched or even expanding the service to other schools in the area.

“Not to compare it to the iPhone, but when the iPhone first came out there are early adopters who will use it and others who will wait to see if it catches on,” Cable said. “Come turnabout and the winter dance we’re going to try it again and possibly at multiple schools. Most of the people and feedback has been encouraging.”

Citing safety reasons the website is not sanctioned or endorsed by New Trier High School. More information is available at thedancematch.com.

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