Hoos Mobile app helps students to navigate Grounds

U.Va. student creates phone-based tool with GPA calculator, academic calendar, news functionalities

hs-hoosmobile-courtesyuniversityofvirginia

Hoos Mobile has received over 1,600 downloads since its release this summer.

Courtesy University of Virginia

Navigating the University can be a daunting task for new students due to its size and complexity. Matthew Wajsgras, a third-year Engineering transfer student, took note of this issue and created “Hoos Mobile,” an app designed to help incoming students find their way around Grounds.

Wajsgras acquired most of his coding knowledge through various sources, such as CodingBat tutorials, Stack Overflow forums and YouTube videos.

“I’ve taken some intro computer science classes, and I feel fairly confident in my coding abilities, but I wasn’t like a master coder or anything,” Wajsgras said. 

According to Wajsgras, he had several things to consider in making the app — such as its features, how he would implement them and determining the best way to present them to the user. 

Wajsgras did, however, manage to avoid a mistake common to new programmers. 

“Trying to cram too much functionality into a single app, particularly for new developers, can be a huge problem,” said Mark Sherriff, an associate computer science professor. “By trying to do too much, apps become bloated, hard to use and confusing for users.”

Following this logic, Wajsgras stuck to common steps when designing a mobile app such as determining the purpose of the app, creating it one step at a time and embedding in code to allow for user interaction.

“The first step, and probably the most important, is establishing the requirements for the app that you are building,” Sherriff said. 

When Wajsgras first transferred to the University from Virginia Tech, he saw that there was no user-friendly mobile app that gave users information about University classes and locations, thus leading to his creation of Hoos Mobile.

The app includes various features to assist new students during their first semester, such as a map feature that shows the locations of buildings where classes are held. Additionally, there is a search function users can utilize to search for specific classes and receive a description for that class. 

Other functions of the app include the academic calendar for the current school year, a GPA calculator, links to popular student websites and a Twitter feed for University news. 

Wajsgras worked on his app this past summer as a side project while he worked full-time. It took approximately seven weeks for him to learn how to code and build his app. After development for the app was finished, it was released on the Google Play Store and the App Store.

When the app first launched, it generated about 800 downloads in the first week. 

Due to its increased exposure, the app has caught the attention of more students, who are taking note of its features. 

“You can … read about a class and how to get to its location all in one place,” first-year Engineering student Andrew Taylor said.

With over 1,600 downloads since its release this past summer, Hoos Mobile continues to be a tool that can serve all University students. 

When asked whether he had any plans for future apps, Wajsgras said, “If I get some free time next summer, I may try to make another one and hopefully have better software development skills by then.”

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