USF Students Develop Apps for Windows Smartphones

Four USF students meet Microsoft’s North America president to show off their app development.


By Daylina Miller

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 10, 2012) - Until last semester, Aneika Stephenson, an electrical engineering student at the University of South Florida, had never coded an app for a smartphone. When her advisor told her about a series of free classes being held on campus to teach just that, she decided to check it out.


“I went and was a bit skeptical at first because I'd never done any kind of coding before but I realized you didn't have to have any kind of coding experience,” Stephenson said. “They teach you.”


Once she learned basic coding, she conceptualized an app called “Nifty Shopper” to help shoppers organize a grocery list and find coupons. In the future, she hopes to further develop it to integrate coupons into the shopping list and expand options for vegans and vegetarians.


“I hope to make shopping and saving money easier for people,” Stephenson said. “Especially for mothers, students, and people who don't have the time to spend hours clipping coupons. In college, it's really important for college students to save money.”


Stephenson ended up being one of four students to win a campus contest for Windows smartphone app development. Last week, she and the others met with Microsoft representatives at the Loews Don Cesar Hotel on St. Pete Beach to show off the apps they developed from scratch.

The students had a variety of coding experience. Some, like Stephenson, had never coded an app and others had coded apps for Android and iPhones.


Tara Walker, an Academic Developer Evangelist for Microsoft, flew down to help teach each class, geared towards computer, engineering and Honors College students but open to all majors.


The USF Honors College was essential in setting up the workshops through its Living Learning Community (Honors LLC).  All workshops were held in the Juniper Poplar Residence Hall. 


The students, and anyone else at USF interested in coding apps, are being encouraged to enter an app into the Imagine Cup, a world-wide student technology contest for Windows software and game design.


Past winning apps include software and a special attachment that allows the user to test themselves for malaria infection with one drop of blood.


“We would love to have a team from USF represent the university,” said Reginald Lucien, an academic advisor for the Honors College who helped establish the app development classes at USF. “We have never had a team from USF and we would love to put USF on the map.”


Chad Tarbutton has been working with HTML since he was 15 and developed a Left Center Right dice game for the Android marketplace. He wanted to learn a new interface and the classes were the perfect environment to do so.


His “Math Farm” app featured adding and subtracting games along with interactive farm animals to teach preschoolers basic math skills. He hopes to further improve his app for the Imagine Cup.


Brothers Mike and Ryan Schmidt helped each other develop their campus map and baseball throw apps.


Mike’s Campus Map app only has the USF campus at the moment but will expand to include other universities. Its unique feature is that it gives students directions to individual classrooms.


Robert Young John, president of Microsoft for North America, said that when Mike manually inserts the USF sidewalks, which aren’t used for the directions by Bing yet, he will have an impressive product that consumers will be interested in buying.


Ryan’s app, which measures how fast you throw a baseball by having you mimic throwing your smartphone, was first denied by Microsoft because of the risk of actually throwing your smartphone.


Walker helped the app be pushed through and Ryan tweaked the accelerometer inside to accurately measure speed.


Jose Suarez, the Microsoft rep for the USF campus, summed up the students and their apps perfectly: “At the end of the day, we are the ones that are going to build our future.”


Lucien said they are planning to have another series of coding classes this fall and encourage students of all majors to participate. No prior experience is necessary.


Daylina Miller can be reached at 813-500-8754.