Finding out where to eat, what’s happening and how to get around are common questions on every college campus. Now at Vanderbilt University, the answers to these questions can be quickly and easily found using new applications developed by Vanderbilt engineering students for iPhone and Android mobile devices.
The new free apps, Dining, Campus Map and Events, were recently released in the iPhone and Android app stores. Using the phone’s GPS, the information the apps present is targeted to where the user is at the time and can be filtered based on their interests, giving them information that helps them immediately navigate the campus and plan their day or night.
The applications were developed by the Vanderbilt Mobile Application Team or VMAT, a group of computer science students working both in class and outside of it with faculty members Douglas Schmidt and Jules White to conduct research on and develop mobile applications. White is teaching a class this semester on smart phone programming and both have been mentoring research projects as well.
“Mobile applications provide an amazing opportunity for undergraduates to have an impact on the future of computing. This is a whole new paradigm of software development and deployment. Students 18 to 22 years old can have a big impact while they are still in school,” Schmidt, professor of computer science, said. “VMAT has provided a great opportunity for students to get visibility and recognition for their accomplishments.”
Through VMAT, led by students Hamilton Turner and Aaron Thompson, students mentor one another and take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to solve real-world challenges.
“VMAT is about two things–students teaching students by building relationships in the engineering community and bringing mobile solutions to Vanderbilt,” Turner said. “I saw a need at Vanderbilt for a mobile solution space. I had a little bit of ability to help with that, but I couldn’t accomplish a fraction of that on my own. With VMAT we have senior students training and mentoring more junior students, with the goal of creating a lasting, cross-semester effort on campus.”
The students’ application work also gives them significant research experience.
“At least three of these students have been first authors on research papers–that’s really unusual for an undergraduate,” White, research assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, said. “Undergraduates are uniquely qualified to do new things in this field that no one else can because they are so familiar with these devices and tools already.”
The VMAT code is all open-source, meaning it can be used and further built upon by other developers. VMAT students have at least five new apps in the works this spring, all driven by their unique perspective of what would be most beneficial to university students.
“Because it’s such a new area, creativity is what’s really important–not necessarily being the best coder or best graphic designer, but being able to come up with really novel ways to use the sensors and social networking on the phone to help people,” White said. “The ability to inspire and spark that creativity is really important in the classroom.”
VMAT is working closely with partners on campus to develop additional Vanderbilt-specific applications. For more information and links to how to download the apps, visit www.vanderbilt.edu/apps.
Watch video about the VMAT apps: www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3U-mOUQgKo.
Watch video about Layers, a popular art app developed by VMAT member Ben Gotow: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaenPlk6xco.
Media contact: Melanie Moran, (615) 322-NEWS