Apple products are all over campus these days — iPods in the CCRB, MacBooks in the Grad and iPhones, well, everywhere. With this ever-increasing ubiquity in products beginning with “i” or “mac” comes an abundance of downloadable applications. And though the majority of these applications come from techies in Silicon Valley, a small number of them were designed and created by students here at the University.
Last year, during both the fall and winter semesters, the College of Engineering offered a class that was one of the first of its kind in the nation — EECS 498: Mobile and Web App Programming. During the term, students enrolled in the class worked to envision their own smart phone applications, and then make those visions a reality.
According to Engineering Prof. Elliot Soloway, who taught the course both semesters, the ultimate goal was to direct students to generate applications that would solve a problem or make a specific task easier.
Soloway said the ability to fulfill this intent — to create a phone application that addressed a problem — is what “separates the successful folks from the unsuccessful folks.”
While EECS 498 is not being offered this term, students from the class have continued to collaborate with one another on their phone applications.
Though not all of the applications from the class were workable, a few did end up receiving approval to be featured in the App Store.
Here’s a look at a few of the best applications designed by students in the class.
Perhaps the most successful application to come from EECS 498 was DoGood, the brainchild of recent University graduates Kunal Jham, Mayank Garg and Jason Bornhorst. According to Bornhorst, the app, modeled after the movie “Pay It Forward,” encourages users to perform random acts of kindness that then motivate others to do the same.
“It’s since been downloaded 70,000 times,” Bornhorst said. “And most interesting is that over 300,000 good deeds have been done on behalf of the application. Basically you’re encouraged to launch the app once a day and upon launching it, you’re presented with a single good deed to do that day which can be, like, ‘give someone a hug,’ or ‘buy someone a coffee.’ “
Bornhorst said there’s a built-in counter in the DoGood application that tracks the number of good deeds each user has performed. The application has even been featured on Gadgetwise, The New York Times’ technology blog.
While most of the phone applications were devised from scratch, Podlink, created by Engineering senior Tyler Pasch, focused on improving an existing app. Pasch said his intent behind the application was to improve on the Apple Remote app.
“What Podlink allows you to do is it allows multiple people with (an iPhone or an iPod touch) to connect to another device that’s playing music and wirelessly control it either by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth,” Pasch said. “So let’s say my housemates and I are having a party. All three of us at the same time can control the music.”
Pasch has even made a small profit from his application, earning about $300 from sales of the $2.99 app.
Engineering seniors Mark Yang and Kevin Chan are still working on their application, tentatively called iWolverine. The application fills a need that the two first noticed when they came to the University. Yang and Chan said they were overwhelmed by the different strands of information available to students, and their application pools all this information into one controlled location.
When the application is finished, Yang and Chan hope the final product will be a definitive resource for University students, allowing them to read dining hall menus, connect to campus bus locator websites and look up contact information through the student directory, among other things.
Yang said they are still working with Apple to make the application available, but that they hope to have it ready by the end of the academic year.