If the early Beatles songs are any indication, all anybody really needs is love. If that's true, then two UCF students are spreading the love around campus just in time for Valentine's Day.
The idea behind KnightGrams, the brainchild of junior computer science majors Andrew Hamon and Steven Petryk, is simple: Students use a website to order candy or roses for their significant others, and then the recipients receive a text message telling them about the order and giving them the option of where to pick up their special gift.
The senders can also write a romantic message that Hamon and Petryk are having helpers handwrite for that extra personal touch. The notes can be signed or delivered anonymously for those secret admirers looking to stay shrouded in amorous mystery a little while longer.
It is that mystery that appealed to Jonathan Warner, a senior majoring in computer science. He said that he purchased a KnightGram for his girlfriend because of the fun surprise element it offered.
"There's an element of mystery; you suddenly get a text message saying someone bought you a KnightGram, but you don't know who it was," Warner said. "It's intriguing, and you get candy."
Hamon first thought of the project a few weeks ago when reminiscing about his high school days.
“I remembered how in high school every year a club would sell candy grams and deliver them to students in class," he said. "I thought it would be fun to use technology to bring a similar experience to a college campus.”
Although UCF is nowhere near the size of a regular high school campus, Hamon said that he isn't overwhelmed by the number of orders they will receive.
“I never was particularly daunted,” he said. “I would love nothing more than to receive an overwhelming number of orders and have to hire additional help.”
His partner agreed.
“Scalability was never much of a concern. We were more afraid of nobody using the service,” Petryk said.
The team has received more than 70 orders since KnightGrams began. Even with order numbers approaching triple-digit figures, their sales are a drop in the pond compared to the volume of Facebook posts and e-cards sent during the holidays. However, Petryk said it’s misleading to compare digital signs of affection with physical gifts.
“Facebook posts and e-cards have their place, but they don't really provide a substitute for a candy gram,” he said. “It's a physical gift that the students receive on campus.”
Although the grams cost money, with prices ranging between $2 to $6, the pair said they didn't start the project to turn a profit. In fact, they both work as computer programmers and don't need the extra cash.
They do it because they want to “spread the joy.”
“We're hoping that people are joyful that somebody thought of them. A lot of our messages are extremely sweet, but some are also funny,” Petryk said, referencing a card where a sorority sister pranked her big by pretending to be a secret admirer. “The recipients don't know what the hand-written note says until they pick up the candy gram, so we're hoping the messages make people smile.”
Hamon said that while they're thinking of expanding KnightGrams in the future, maybe adding trying out Halloween, there's something special about creating something for a day devoted to saying “I love you.”
“I've always been a hopeless romantic,” he said. “I'm a fan of any holiday that lets me shamelessly send my crush a bouquet of roses.”
Students interested in sending a KnightGrams can place an order at ily.io/knightgrams.
Deanna Ferrante is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter @deannaferrante or email her at DeannaF@centralfloridafuture.com.