Students compete to develop SFU app

Currently, there is only an unofficial SFU app in circulation.

SFU is designing an official app with the help of students from the software engineering course CMPT 275.

Roughly 100 SFU students are feverishly working on the app, designing features for SFU transit, Connect, Canvas, calendar, and wayfinding.

Students may be able to enjoy the new app as soon as fall 2015, according to Herbert Tsang, CMPT 275 instructor and adjunct professor in the department of Interactive Arts and Technology at SFU.

He sets different themes for every class he instructs, and for this particular course, the theme for is the information portal for SFU.

Tsang explained, “It’s a class project per se, so we have about 15 different teams that are working on this theme, but they can choose their own features and functionalities.”

Serena Chan, one of the students participating, explained that the strength of her group’s app is its wide array of options for users.

In the beginning, Chan said that project seemed overwhelming, but now students are coming close to a finished product and even focusing on optimizing the app’s performance.

According to Chan, “If you’re not connected to the Internet, you can use the offline map. If you are connected, our app includes Google Maps. A lot of groups had interesting ideas for new features such as wayfinding, loyalty programs for dining services, and even a bitcoin wallet.”

There are a lot of common functionalities in the prospective SFU official apps, such as bus schedules, SFU email, calendars, and Canvas.

However, many students are integrating new and interesting themes into their apps, such as wayfinding on campus, a system to keep track of the library books, connections with dining services on campus, and incorporation of social media.

“There are many things that people are exploring at this point,” noted Tsang.

The best app will be selected at the end of April once students from CMPT 275 submit their final projects. If all goes well, the plan is to hire the winning team and work with them to perfect an official app for SFU.

“We are going to have 15 different apps finished by the end of this semester. The plan is to pick winners,” Tsang asserted.

Mark McLaughlin, executive director at SFU Ancillary Services commented, “[What] we would like to do is come up with a new [app], not just with fresh technology, but with some really exciting features that will really be used by students.”

According to McLaughlin, the app should be ready by the fall release date if the university and the students can perfect the app over the summer.

McLaughlin pointed out that “it’s important that private information such as username and password are secure for the official SFU app.”

Since SFU does not currently have an official app, both Tsang and McLaughlin believe that the upcoming one will be very useful for students. 

“We are really hopeful that the app will take off and there will be an app, but right now, it is one step at a time,” said McLaughlin.

“The app is coming, definitely, so watch out and we hope that everybody will download, use it, and give us a feedback so that we can make it even better,” concluded Tsang.