Vol State Students Design Android Phone Apps

Submitted on January 31, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Understanding computer programming is the key to an ever-growing world of new technology. Seeing the value in learning the raw technical skills can be tough for college students. Volunteer State Community College has a new approach that you can literally hold in your hand. Vol State students are developing applications for Android mobile phones in a Computer Information Systems class. The idea is to help students see the value of programing and also teach them to think like a programmer.

"This course was designed to be preparation for our first programming class. With Google App Inventor all you have to do is have the correct thought process," said Vol State Associate Professor Dan Arena. "It's cool. Within a couple of weeks students were writing programs for app development."

Two of the student group projects are already available commercially. Student teams designed "Donut Text" as a way for texters to send automatic replies while they are driving and also have the text read aloud. "EchoTxt" takes those features one step further, by allowing texters to speak and send a reply text simply by shaking the phone.

"I was the group leader for EchoTxt. It was my first time being in charge," said Casey Meador of Westmoreland. "It was really fun and also frustrating at times. We would get in and do something and it wouldn't work. Then we would all get together and work out a solution. That was cool."

Each group had students with a wide range of experiences. Henry Forson of Lebanon worked with the Donut Text team. He's a software engineer for Toshiba. He says students with less experience did well.

"I think they were getting the basics of it," Forson said. "There are certain fundamental aspects of programing that App Inventor allows you to do, without knowing a lot of programming. Historically in beginning programming classes about half of the students don't complete. We didn't have that."

"It was great to have such an enthusiastic group of students who ran with the idea," said Arena.

The Vol State students even helped out the Massachusetts Institute of Technology along the way. MIT manages the App Inventor program used in the class. The Vol State students noticed a possible problem while developing their apps. They notified MIT developers who realized that they had a bug in their latest version. MIT even loaded a special server with a patched version so that the Vol State students could finish their projects on time.

The Vol State student apps can be downloaded for Android phones by putting the title of the app in a Google search. They are free. For more information about Computer Information Systems (CIS) at Vol State visit: www.volstate.edu/CIS. The app development class is INFS 111.

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Pictured: Associate Professor Dan Arena shows off the Donut Text mobile phone application that his Vol State students developed.

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