Global Students, Mobile Apps

Monday, Apr. 7, 2014 3:24 pm

The student app developers want to help solve world problems as part of Grinnell’s emphasis on social responsibility. But they also want to use their smartphones to handle much smaller tasks, like checking whether the D-hall, Grinnell's Marketplace dining hall, is serving pizza.

If they need an email address of someone in philosophy class, they use DB app. To check out the menu at the D-hall, they open G-licious. If they can’t find an app that gives them the information they want, they help build one that will.

Grinnell AppDev is a student-based mobile application development team supported by the College through the Innovation Fund. Before this program existed, students built apps, but there was no system in place that would guarantee sustainability. “We want to create a program that (1) has a mentorship environment with a community to learn, grow, and get internships or jobs and (2) creates homegrown products that are useful to the Grinnell community,” says Maijid Moujaled ’14.

So far, the app development team has built four mobile apps for both Apple iOS and Android platforms. In addition to Grinnell DB and G-licious, the team has also built apps for the College's student-run newspaper, Scarlet & Black, and radio station, KDIC. AppDev members are also working on a mobile version of GrinnellPlans, a Grinnell-specific social network that is one way current students to connect with alumni and with each other.

For now, the group is working on apps specific to Grinnell’s campus community, but Moujaled and the rest of the app development team understand the potential of software to have a significant positive impact on the world. “We’re living in an increasingly software-centric world, and this gives us the ability to integrate technology into the domain of these social problems,” Moujaled says. “Since technology is malleable, it can be used to tackle some of these problems in brand new ways.”

The group initially consisted of a handful of computer-science majors, but its members wanted to diversify. “We need community builders, a financial officer, designers, and user experience researchers,” says Patrick Triest ’15. Moujaled agrees: “When people from different fields come together to work on a project, the resulting product is better than it would be with a homogenous group.”

New software developer recruits take part in a semester-long training program before joining the group in earnest, so they don’t have to come in with any experience in computer science or app development. Lea Marolt Sonnenschein ’15 stresses, “Grinnell AppDev serves as a perfect complement to the excellent computer science curriculum.”