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With App Showcase, Gallaugher Shows Students That Anyone Can Code

Using Apple’s app development tools, John Gallaugher’s students are looking for ways to innovate within the app industry. On Tuesday evening in the Fulton Honors Library, Gallaugher’s students showcased their accomplishments in an exhibition of apps that they created in their Swift and iOS App Development course, “Special Topics: Swift/iOS App Development.”

Gallaugher’s motivation to create the course initially was to expose students with little or no programming background to creating innovative apps.

“During the course of the semester, they will build eight different apps,” Gallaugher said. “Their skills continue to build, and by the end of class they are working with sophisticated technology called API’s, sources for weather, and so on. Some are working with Google apps, as part of the firebase [Google’s app development platform] platform.”

As part of the class, students use Apple’s Xcode software development tool and learn to code in Swift, a programming language created by Apple in 2014.

Gallaugher’s course is fast-paced and demands dedication, but doesn’t require a programming background. He uses a “flipped-classroom” approach in which students view lectures in a series of pre-recorded, online videos. Gallaugher views aspect of the course as one of its strengths.

Although Gallaugher is a professor in the Carroll School of Management, the course was opened to up to students in other schools as well.

“There are so many students that want to study computer science right now that the CS classes are full,” Gallaugher said. “I really hope that we provide something which helps out students that might not be necessarily able to do [the] full computer science major, but they want to learn something about coding, and hopefully even build their vision.”

Gallaugher said students are really proud to show their homework. The students also create GitHub accounts in order to share their work with the world.

“I think this is a great class if you are a math student, or say an economics student,” Gallaugher said. “And frankly, just about everyone who came to BC can build apps. The logic for building apps is not that much different, in an abstract sense, than the logic that you would do say in an upper level finance course.”

Most students’ apps were interesting to learn about, and many went out of their way to begin searching for solutions to problems or to make life at Boston College more convenient.

Kaining Shen, MCAS ’19, aimed for her project to focus on entertainment. Shen created a simple arcade shooting game, set in outer space, with a more old-school feel. Her experience in the classroom has been valuable to her, and she truly enjoyed creating the app, despite facing some difficulties with scaling the game for different iPhone models.

“I wanted to apply the app to all of the iPhone models, but I was only able to scale it for the iPhone 7 and the 7 Plus,” Shen said.

Another app that was quite inventive was the recipe app that Marc Marlotte, MCAS ’19, created. Based on the idea that people are often unsure as to what to search for in recipe books, Marc hoped to create an app that would randomly give the user a few dozen recipes to choose from.

In his words, this eases the process of choosing what to cook and allows for people to quickly access a potential meal they would want to prepare.

“I took choice out of the app, I took the search bar out,” Marlotte said. “Every time you refresh the app, it will hit you back with 15 recipes. You can then add a certain recipe to your favorites if you want to.”

“Mac Daddy,” created by Linda Chen, MCAS ’20, connects students on campus to have a meal together. Presumably, one can choose to become a “daddy” on the app (someone who has leftover money in their meal plan at the end of the semester) with a “baby” who could use some help in paying for his or her next meal. Chen believes that the app’s design and functionality make for a high probability of success on college campuses like BC.

“At the end of the semester when people are running out of [meal plan] money, they can not only have a friend to have lunch with, but also feed someone who has way less money left,” Chen said.

Chen said this was her first time coding and developing an app.

“There were so many challenges,” Chen said. “I would say the hardest part was just getting the data to come in from firebase in time for the app to work properly.”

Speaking about BC and some of his current and former students, Gallaugher highlighted the importance of attracting students who are passionate and motivated about programming, as well as entrepreneurship.

“The fact that we can attract those kinds of students to Boston College means that we’ll be increasingly known as a place where technology has the resources to thrive,” Gallaugher said.

Featured Image by Myroslav Dobroshynskyi / Heights Staff

December 7, 2017