GVSU unveils iPhone app

Posted on

ALLENDALE, Mich. — Grand Valley State University has launched a new mobile application for the iPhone. The app — which features news, maps, multimedia content and a directory — was built by students and is the first product of the Mobile Applications and Services Lab in Grand Valley's School of Computing and Information Systems.

That lab is led by professor Jonathan Engelsma — a Grand Valley alumnus who returned to his alma mater in August 2009 after 16 years working in research for Motorola. 

Engelsma said the idea for the app arose last fall, when students were brainstorming potential projects for the lab to undertake. "This project provided an opportunity for students to get acquainted with the technology in a way that also serves the community," Engelsma said.

A group of eight undergraduate and graduate students worked on the project. The application has five sub-sections. A news tab features headlines from GVNow, the Lanthorn and Laker Sports. A directory links into Grand Valley's People Finder, to help users find faculty, staff and students — allowing users to add the results directly to their iPhone address books. There's also a Twitter feed that monitors traffic related to Grand Valley and a media section that ties into multimedia content — including Grand Valley YouTube videos. Finally, there's a GPS-enabled map function that will help people find their way around campus. The icons in the app were designed by a student in the Department of Art and Design under the supervision of professor Chitra Gopalakrishna.

The project has taken students through all the parts of software development — conceptualization, building, deployment, and feedback from users. "It's a really nice experience for the students in my lab," Engelsma said. "It's like they're working on a real consumer software development project."

The app is available from the iTunes store here. There's also an Android version of the application in the pipeline, Engelsma said.

Engelsma graduated from Grand Valley with a computer science degree in 1987. Former Grand Valley professor Bruce Klein encouraged him to pursue a Ph.D., so Engelsma went to Michigan State University with the notion of becoming a college professor. Instead, he ended up working for Motorola, telecommuting from his West Michigan home.