Mobile App Development

After a 10-week summer internship with Weber State University’s Information Technology Division, four WSU students showcased their individual final projects the evening of Aug. 18.

Under the direction of WSU employee Alan Livingston, each intern was assigned to a department or organization within WSU that showed interest in obtaining a smartphone app.  The Davis Campus, the Master of Business Administration program, the WSU Student Association andthe  Strength and Conditioning program were the four organizations selected.

Interns primarily programmed using jQuery—the most popularly used JavaScript library today—to create their apps.  The syntax of jQuery is designed to make it easier to navigate a document, create animations and handle events.  By using the same library, the program gives a similar feel to all apps created.

According to Bret Ellis, the vice president of Information Technology, it would have been easy to assign the app development within the IT Division and let more seasoned programmers do the job; however, both he and Livingston wanted students to be the primary programmers.

“I’ve been in higher education for over 20 years and I really want to invest in you (students),” Ellis said.  “Higher education is about giving student opportunities to learn; although it does cost us a little bit more to do it that way, our mission is let students grow.”

After seeing an ad soliciting students who had an interest in developing mobile applications, WSU sophomore and computer science major Jon Douglas contacted Livingston and explained his interest.  Douglas was then chosen as one of the four summer interns.

“I really enjoyed this experience.  These type of opportunities allow me to express my creativity and creates endless possibilities,” Douglas said. “It opens doors to new applications and new technologies that you could use and integrate into your project.”

Douglas, who was assigned to develop and design the mobile app for the MBA program, said that there were a few challenges during the coding process, but that these challenges forced him to think out of the box and coordinate ideas between fellow interns and other IT employees.

“Making all phones compatible with the framework became an issue.  I have a Windows phone and the browser was fairly outdated and many times the app would render sloppy,” Douglas said.  “Another challenge was implementing the Academic Calendar.  However, this experience has broadened my horizons and opened doors for me.

According to Ellis, other professors and departments have already made requests to add a mobile app to their classes.  To meet that need and to allow as many students as possible to participate in the process, a new student club is in the process of being established.

The club, La Guilde—French for a crafts guild—will be that conduit.  There, students will be able to share ideas, receive training to author their ideas into functioning apps and showcase their products.  The club, set to have weekly meetings throughout the semester, does not require that its members have a background in computer science and programming, although it is helpful. Interested students can subscribe to updates about the club by sending a text message of “LG,” without quotes,  to 469-579-2390.

“I see us creating more mobile apps, because more of the departments will want to have them,” Livingston said. “I also see us creating more sophisticated apps.”