Corporate partnerships are the lynchpin for many college programs
Campus Issues / Technology
Using partnerships to curb cost of facilities, services
More in: Workforce Development / Opinions
Auto consortium takes on the manufacturing challenge
More in: Government / Workforce Development
Associate Professor Dan Arena shows off the Donut Text mobile phone app that his Vol State students developed.
Photo: Volunteer State Community College
Understanding computer programming is the key to an ever-growing world of new technology. But seeing the value in learning the raw technical skills may not be apparent for some college students.
Volunteer State Community College (Tennessee) has a new approach that students can literally hold in their hands: They are developing applications for Android mobile phones in a computer information systems class. The idea is to help students see the value of programing and also teach them to think like a programmer.
“This course was designed to be preparation for our first programming class. With Google App Inventor all you have to do is have the correct thought process,” said Dan Arena, an associate professor at the college. “It’s cool. Within a couple of weeks students were writing programs for app development.”
Two of the student group projects are already available commercially. Student teams designed “Donut Text” as a way for texters to send automatic replies while they are driving and also have the text read aloud. “EchoTxt” takes those features one step further, by allowing texters to speak and send a reply text simply by shaking the phone.
The Vol State student apps Donut Text and Echo Txt can be downloaded for free for Android phones.
“I was the group leader for EchoTxt. It was my first time being in charge,” said student Casey Meador. “It was really fun but also frustrating at times. We would get in and do something and it wouldn’t work. Then we would all get together and work out a solution. That was cool.”
Each group had students with a wide range of experiences, but even the less-experienced students did well, said Henry Forson, a software engineer for Toshiba who worked with the Donut Text team.
“I think they were getting the basics of it,” Forson said. “There are certain fundamental aspects of programing that App Inventor allows you to do, without knowing a lot of programming. Historically in introductory programming classes about half of the students don’t complete. We didn’t have that.”
The students even helped the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) along the way. MIT manages the App Inventor program used in the class. The Vol State students noticed a possible problem while developing their apps. They notified MIT developers who realized that they had a bug in their latest version. MIT even loaded a special server with a patched version so that the Vol State students could finish their projects on time.
Copyright ©2012 American Association of Community Colleges