Rebekah Tilley, Writer, University of Iowa
It’s Demo Day for participants in this summer’s ISE Coding Garage, an app development workshop for high school students. There is a nervous energy in the room as students prepare to demonstrate the mobile apps they’ve been developing for the past eight weeks as part of a STEM initiative developed by Coralville-based Innovative Software Engineering (ISE) and supported by the University of Iowa Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development.
“I’m going to start with a story that I feel a lot of developers will understand,” began ISE Coding Garage student Michael Abdo, 18, a recent West High School graduate, at the Aug. 10 presentations. “I had an app and it was beautiful, but it could be better. I had some time this afternoon and I thought, let’s get some animation in there. And I crashed it. So now I have some good old fashion screen shots to show you.”
After waiting for the laughter to die down, Abdo described his app, “BookSmart.” The user tells the app how much time she has available to read and then presents her with a list of previously bookmarked online articles that she could read in the time available.
“At the conclusion of the article, you are presented with a screen with the options including ‘quiz later,’” explained Abdo. “If you’re wondering why ‘quiz later,’ there were studies done that show if you do not take a quiz or somehow review what you read within 24 hours, you are likely to forget 90 percent of what you read.”
Presentations were judged by peers, ISE Coding Garage mentors, parents and ISE executives and engineers based on app design, user experience, practicality, originality and presentation. The awards presentation for the highest scoring apps will take place at, Friday, Aug. 19 at the Coralville CoLab, which hosted the group’s weekly meetings.
Kawther Rouabhi, 16, a rising junior at City High School, developed “RoomMore,” a roommate app that allows a group of roommates to create group to-do lists for grocery runs and household chores, set a monthly budget, and divide and pay shared bills like rent, gas and water.
“I wanted to a build a useful app based in organization with a true purpose,” said Rouabhi, who plans to major in computer science when she goes to college. “I felt like that could be more useful than a game, though I love gaming apps too.”
Audience members were encouraged to ask questions and a lively back and forth occurred after each presentation.
“Is there a way to see the history of bill payment?”
“I haven’t done that yet, but that’s a good point,” Rouabhi replied.
“Does it host pictures?”
“I was trying to figure out how to do that. It’s definitely something for later on,” she said.
Rouabhi said she was recruited to the ISE Coding Garage through her AP Computer Science class. Participants met every Wednesday night starting June 15 and she spent “long hours” working on her app between meetings.
“I’m amazed at what the students have accomplished in the program and look forward to seeing if they continue to enhance their apps for public download,” said Daniela Williams, ISE project manager and organizer of the ISE Coding Garage. “It’s important to ISE that we can help foster the technical capabilities of the next generation. The students, along with ISE, are grateful for the support from the University of Iowa for a successful summer program.”
While ISE provided staffing, interns, host space and a portion of funds for awards, the UI Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development contributed by making equipment available by request to students in the program including a laptop and Android phone as well as financial support in the form of recruitment tools, food, shirts for students and volunteers, and contributions toward cash prizes for winners of the app demonstration. UI Dev/Iowa also provided one of its a paid student interns to mentor students at the weekly meetings.
The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development provides resources and support to researchers and scholars at the University of Iowa and to businesses across Iowa with the goal of forging new frontiers of discovery and innovation and promoting a culture of creativity that benefits the campus, the state, and the world. More at http://research.uiowa.edu, and on Twitter: @DaretoDiscover.
Photos (from top): Kawther Rouabhi, 16, a rising junior at City High School, demonstrating the “RoomMore” app she developed during the Coding Garage to help roommates create group to-do lists for grocery runs and household chores, set a monthly budget, and divide and pay shared bills like rent, gas and water; Michael Abdo, 18, a recent West High School graduate, discussing his app, “BookSmart,” which tells users how much time they have to read something on their smart device and then presents a list of previously bookmarked articles that they could complete in the available time. Credit: Miranda Meyer.