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Students Develop New Skills to Create iPhone Applications

November 18, 2010

Users of Apple Inc.'s popular iPhone smartphone technology may soon be able to toss a Frisbee halfway across the world, send drawings to friends and family, and get wake-up calls through applications developed this fall by Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students.


Happy With Application: Ian Cundiff, a sophomore computer science student, showcases the MSSDraw iPhone application that he developed during a fall quarter class at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

The high-tech applications were designed in a new iPhone programming course brought to the campus by David Fisher, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. The course focused on a hands-on approach with an application-driven teaching approach.

Among eight applications developed during the 10-week course was iFrisbee, a product that allows people, using multiple iPhones, to play an interactive Frisbee game. One person flicks the disk through wireless technology to another designated player, who must trigger a capture -- or catch -- of the moving object. There is also a single player game option. Nick Crawford, a sophomore computer science student, and Mark Vitale, a sophomore software engineering student, used GameKit software framework to set up the application, which may be available on iTunes' App Store by Christmas.

"We still have more work to do, but are excited to see everything come together," states Crawford. "We both plan on making applications together and independently as time goes on with the skills learned in this course . . . I've used Apple computers since I was little, so the prospect of creating applications for a mainstream product seemed pretty exciting."

 Frisbee Players: Bringing Frisbee to iPhones throughout the world could be Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students Mark Vitale (left) and Nick Crawford with their iFrisbee application.

Vitale added: "For me, it came down to learning valuable skills. Mobile development is a highly sought after skill set, especially iOS programming, and this class has opened up some new opportunities in my career field."
Another application, MMSDraw, offers persons the opportunity to send sketches and other artwork to other iPhone users. Practical uses for this technology could have children sending doodles to family members traveling throughout the world; businesses could send simple draft drawings about projects; and colleagues could exchange work notes -- by a click on the phone. A simple shake clears the image from the phone, similar to an Etch A Sketch pad. The project was developed by Ian Cundiff, a sophomore computer science student.
"There are iPhone applications for everything imaginable, but nothing quite like this," Cundiff stated. "I have had an iPhone for some time but had no idea about how applications were created. Now, I have made one myself. That's neat and an opportunity that most sophomores don't get in college."


Playing Games: Tim Wentz, a senior software engineering major, demonstrates his Tiltpong iPhone application that was created during a new course at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

Tiltpong is an application, created by senior software engineering student Tim Wentz, which allows persons with two iPhones to play the popular pong video game, keeping the ball from getting to the end of the playing screen. OpenGL ES software was used to create the game's full programmable 3D graphics.
Two alarm clock applications were developed -- NeverSnooze, by junior software engineering student Peter Brousalis, in which the iPhone user must correctly answer a challenging math question to turn off the wake up call feature; and Simple Alarm, by Jack Hall, a junior computer science student.
Meanwhile, the RoseMap application provides a glimpse into the Rose-Hulman campus, with its buildings, classrooms, laboratories and students' residence hall rooms. It was developed by Victoria Zheng, a sophomore computer science student, using Map Kit framework. Similar services are currently available at Harvard, Stanford, Texas A&M and Rice.
"I was very interested in iPhone development and when I heard about this course I was really excited," Zheng stated. "It definitely met my expectations. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun. It was not hard, but just different from what I used to do. I enjoyed the course a lot and would definitely recommend it to other people if it is taught again."


Mapping Out Campus: Victoria Zheng's RoseMap iPhone application will allow persons to quickly find persons living on the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology campus


Fisher introduced the iPhone development course to the Rose-Hulman curriculum to introduce application programming for iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) after working at Apple Inc. the past three summers. Students learned the design principles used in iPhone app development as the tools (Xcode and Interface Builder), language (Objective-C) and object oriented programming environment (Cocoa Touch). 
"Programming for mobile devices is going to be the wave of the future and it's great that we can provide this opportunity," said Fisher, who has also developed several iPhone applications. "Hopefully, students can now look for jobs at companies interested in iOS app developmnet, as well as, put a few apps on the iTunes store for fun and potential sales . . . I'm always impressed at student creativity and their ideas for iPhone apps were no exception. Students had very creative and unique ideas for their apps and I was delighted to see the results. I hope some of their apps find their way to the iTunes app store in the near future. The class was a great success and the students really enjoyed the course."




Insight About the iPhone SDK Programming Course

The multidisciplinary course focuses on a hands-on approach with very few traditional lectures. Topics were introduced as needed with an application-driven teaching approach. Professor David Fisher states: "It works very well to spend less time talking about iOS development and more time doing iOS development." Most of the course lectures were basic applications that focused on teaching one core topic. "We'd work on that app and talk about the details of that iOS topics as we developed the application," Fisher said. "The theory would come during the demonstration to give students a better hands-on understanding." Course videos were posted online at  Lectures can also be found via podcast on the iTunes Store by doing a search for "Rose-Hulman."

More on the career success of Rose-Hulman Graduates.