Many of the senior computer science majors were recently involved in a project to create an iPhone app for FHU. This project was completed by students in the Advanced Topics in Computer Science class this Spring semester. The goal was to create an app that would provide useful information to prospective and current students as well as faculty and staff. For the prospective students, we needed to make a way for them to see information about Freed and to have a way to contact the Admissions department. For the current students, we wanted to have information from many different campus social feeds, a calendar of campus events, a directory of faculty and buildings, and a campus map. The students involved in this undertaking were Michael Jenkins, Caleb Hutson, Cameron Czerwonka, Trevor Robertson, James Allen, and Jeff Boyd. Our professor was Kenan Casey and our project manager was Michael Plyler from the IT department.
Phase 1: Backend
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was our iPhone app. We began the first of the three phases of the projects by having to write code in C# to combine all the different information from the campus social sources. We gathered information from Twitter, Facebook, calendars, athletics websites and others. Our task during this phase was to make two different programs. The first one read in the information from all these different sources and saved them into a database. The second program took the information from that database and output it to an XML file, which we would later download on the iPhone. This was a difficult phase for all of us, because although some of us were familiar with C#, none of us had ever written a program to do anything remotely similar to these tasks. So there was much to learn in the course of us completing this phase.
Phase 2: Design
The next phase involved designing the interface and appearance of the iPhone app. During this phase we had to produce 3 different mock-ups for the iPhone that would be shown to the Admissions department and others around campus in order to get feedback. Thanks in large part to Cameron’s expertise at Photoshop and graphic design, we produced great design options. The feedback from those around campus was very exciting and got us excited to actually convert the designs into a reality.
Phase 3: Frontend
The final phase of the project, and arguably the most difficult, was to actually code the app for the iPhone. This was to be done in Objective-C, a language which none of us had ever used before. There was a huge learning curve to master before we could really get anywhere. One of the first decisions to be made was what content to put in our app. The general consensus was to include news, which would be FHU social feeds, press releases and athletics news, a calendar, a directory, a campus map, an Admissions page, and pages for general FHU information. Once these were decided, the pages were divided up and each of the students became responsible for completing the functionality of those pages. Something we all learned was that it is actually very difficult to code some of the things that are so easy to use on the iPhone. After many weeks of hard work and frustration, the FHU iPhone app is mostly finished with just minor polishing left to be completed.
This project definitely proved to be a major challenge, but in the end was very rewarding. I feel that I learned much and am more confident than ever that I am ready to get a programming job and can succeed. I learned that even if I don’t know how to solve a problem when it is given to me, I can solve it if I work hard enough and do enough searches on Google. Overall, I could not imagine a better way to spend our time in our last computer science class than to actually be making something that will be used by many people at the university.
Student Project Manager