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U Michigan iPhone App Grows from Student Project

An iPhone app conceived by two students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, built as a computer science class project, and purchased by the school's IT organization has made its public debut in the Apple iTunes store. Formerly named iWolverine, now called "University of Michigan," the app allows users to track buses in real time through the popular Magic Bus Web application, listen to the school's fight song, check dining hall menus, and search for buildings, among other features.

Computer science and engineering students Kevin Chan and Mark Yang developed the initial app as a project for a Mobile and Web App Programming course in winter 2009. The students, who now work for mobile device maker Qualcomm in San Diego, turned to their pet peeves for some of the features. They found themselves wondering what was being served at various dining halls, so they figured out a way to include menus. The building search started out as an abbreviation directory in iWolverine.

"Everyone struggled with figuring out the abbreviations and the locations for buildings at the beginning of the new semester," Yang said.

Information and Technology Services purchased iWolverine in March 2010 as a way to jumpstart development, according to Cassandra Carson, mobile applications product manager.

Carson said the mobile team is now exploring the development of an Android version of the Michigan app. It's also developing other apps for the Michigan community, including Mfile, Mprint, and SSO, which are expected to be available later this summer. Mfile will allow users to download files from their Institutional File Service home directory to an iPhone. Users can print to a campus printer from Mprint. SSO is a Cosign Single Sign-On authentication app for developers.

"Mobile applications are resulting in a fundamental shift in how people experience computing," said Laura Patterson, associate vice president and CIO. "The low cost and fast adoption of Smart phones makes it essential to have our university services accessible on mobile devices. The Michigan iPhone app is the first step."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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