By Erin Gignac
Editor In Chief
Story Update: On August 23, WMU released version 2.1 for iPhone and Android, which also lets students access their schedule and view their midterm and final grades.
With a few taps of a fingertip onto the glassy surface of an iPhone or Android device, anyone with a smart phone can access the free Western Michigan University Mobile App.
“We touched zero code,” said Scott Puckett, web developer for enrollment management at WMU. “Our students built this app for WMU. We take a lot of pride in saying that because not a lot of schools have done that. Being one of those small handfuls that was fortunate enough to have a great computer science department and having students volunteer to do this as a project: It’s rewarding for both of us.”
Puckett is talking about the original project that was introduced to Assistant Professor of computer science Dr. John Kapenga’s class in early 2011. The initial six students who pioneered the project used their own computer codes to create the smart phone app. The app was tackled as their final senior design project. The students who worked on the project this year were: Nathan Shiff and Andrew Throesch for the Apple team and Lance Danzy and Timothy Ham for the Android team.
Search for “WMU Mobile App” in the iTunes store or search the same keyword in Android’s play store and the free download should pop up.
Version 2.0 is available for the iPhone with the Android 2.0 version expected to release some time in June with an exclusive cover flow feature. If students download the Android 1.2 version now, an automatic prompt will appear on their phone once the 2.0 version is available.
Keith Hearit, Ph.D., vice provost for enrollment management at WMU, said the increase in smart phones among the incoming freshman is what peaked his interest in developing a mobile app.
“The data in the last 12 to 18 months on how many college freshman are now coming to campus with smart phones has nothing short of skyrocketed,” Hearit said. “Where before smart phones were the exception, now the vast majority of our students will be carrying a smart phone.”
The two most important features of the app are the Brown and Gold campus bus schedules with a real-time GPS locator and the WMU Dining Services menu page, Hearit said. Initially developed as a way for students to apply to WMU, the WMU Mobile App evolved into a tool for students already attending the university.
“By far, the biggest users of any kind of university app site are the current students,” Hearit said.
New features of the 2.0 app include easy accessibility for students with visual impairments, a new homepage design, a webmail link, updated campus maps, a streaming link to WIDR-FM, an expanded university contact list and dining hall menus. Browse the sound buttons where you can play the fight song and memorize the lyrics to impress your orientation leader, or play the alma mater. Try shaking your phone to activate the “key play” sound that is vital for football games.
“That one was one that students just lit up in the room once [key play] was presented to them,” he said.
The 2.0 app will be available on Android devices and the iPad, Puckett said.
“The bulk of the mobile devices are not just smart phones, but some kind of tablet,” Hearit said.