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Two Computer Science Students Build UAlbany’s First Official Mobile App

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 9, 2014) – University at Albany students, parents, faculty and staff, as well as the community-at-large can now access campus-wide information in the palm of their hand. UAlbany recently unveiled its first official mobile application under the leadership of two computer science majors – Shivam Parikh and Matthew Gilliland.

Parikh and Gilliland spent their final undergraduate semester building the app as web interns in UAlbany’s Office of Communications and Marketing. It is available for free download on Apple iOS and Android platforms.

The development of an official mobile platform allows users to stay connected to UAlbany by offering centralized access to university web resources. Unique features include:

  • Access to transit information, including CDTA bus schedules that display both arrival and departure times
  • Direct log-in to SUNYCard accounts to add munch money and/or podium dollars, see current balance and review account spending
  • Real-time information on washers/dryers in residence halls, allowing students to view when machines are being used and remaining cycle time
  • Ability to reserve books/guides and private study rooms from all three university libraries
  • Walking, biking and driving directions provided from anywhere on UAlbany’s three campuses through a GPS locator 
  • Upcoming campus events, dining hours, university news and photos

Parikh proposed to create the UAlbany app last January and reached out to Gilliland after receiving approval to proceed. The students first met four years ago and transferred together from Ulster Community College. Gilliland is familiar with coding for the Android platform, while Parikh is experienced with iOS.

Their idea is fully supported by data from the Pew Research Center. Fifty-six percent of Americans now own a smartphone, and on college campuses, that number increases every day. In a 2013 survey conducted by the education-technology organization Educase, 76 percent of undergraduates reported owning a smartphone.

“I was not the first student with this idea. Multiple unofficial UAlbany apps were already available for download,” Parikh said. “Working with the University was the missing piece. We had access to the resources needed to leave behind an app that could be supported by the entire campus.”

Starting last January, Parikh and Gilliland each spent about 15 hours per week on development. Parikh discovered an open-source mobile framework called PhoneGap which allowed for coding through JavaScript, HTML and CSS. Both students received required internship credit needed to complete UAlbany’s College of Computing and Information (CCI) combined bachelor’s and master’s degree. In return, the University received its first official mobile app at a total expense of about $125.

The released 1.1 version already has more than 3,600 downloads. Parikh and Gilliland are mentoring a new intern for continued development. Version 1.2 is currently in the works - it will feature real-time location of campus shuttle buses. Plans to add a push notification system are also on-going.

“It’s a really awesome feeling to be able to leave something like this behind for our university,” said Gilliland. “We’re both happy with the way it turned out. This app was created by students, for students – just how we envisioned it to be. The next intern will be starting right where we left off.”

Parikh and Gilliland received their bachelor’s degree last May. Gilliland is on track to complete his master’s degree this fall. He’s accepted an app development position after graduation with North Fork Web, Inc. in Long Island. Parikh plans to continue to serve as the app mentor until graduating with his second degree next spring.

UAlbany's Official App in the News:
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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.