Inventors find ‘an app for that’ on campus

The phrase “there’s an app for that” has taken on a much bigger meaning since it aired on an iPhone commercial in 2009. Between calorie counters, photo enhancers, music databases and addictive games, there truly is an app for everyone. Now, the University is willing to give students their own opportunity to create apps.

Yih-Chun Hu, a professor at the University, has been teaching students how to create their own apps through an Electrical and Computing Engineering course. These apps focus on cloud computing, which is a way of sharing resources and software through the Internet.

“We had these phones donated by Microsoft for our use during the semester. Each project got two phones,” Hu said. “And so, most people built on Windows mobile because of that.”

One team of students was also able to create an Android app that they plan on trying to introduce to the Android app store.

Once the apps were completed, they were submitted to a contest where awards were given such as Most Innovative Application, Cloudiest Application, Best Overall Application and Student Choice.

TaskPop, which was the winner of Best Overall Application and Student Choice, is a task managing application and is usable for Android smart phones.

“What you could do is your basic task listings, but then you could also assign tasks to other people,” Hu said. “And on a per task basis, you had permission so you could see who could see it and who could complete it.”

Tyler Harrington, senior in Engineering, learned how to create apps through campus courses, as well as information from the Internet and books. Harrington has been recently developing two apps.

“One is a parking assistance app, which allows users to find parking spots in garages, meters or leased spots by individual owners,” Harrington said. “The second app is being developed for this campus in particular and will be promoting the establishments on campus such as events and specials.”

Students from other universities have also created apps that have been localized for use in the Champaign-Urbana area. Star Li, a 2010 graduate from Cornell University, designed an app called Vidappe that can be used on iPhones or Android powered phones.

The app is a way to get as many discounts in the area as possible. After subscribing to programs, the app will send out reminders as to where one can get discounts with their iCard.

For example, if a student was walking past a restaurant on Green Street where they could receive 15% off of their meal, their Vidappe would alert them of this when they were a block away from the restaurant.

“It’s like having a friend following you around, reminding you to do this stuff,” Li said. “Like if you look at something online, you’ll forget about it minutes later, but if you actually have your phone reminding you, I thought it would be like an easy trick.”

Vidappe is now used by 1,200 people around the United States and Li is interested in expanding the app even further.

“If you have a student ID already, I just feel like this is a really useful tool for you,” Li said.

Students who are creating smart phone apps, prove that someone doesn’t need to be Steve Jobs in order to create something technologically innovative.