General

So I think I heard you say … Mobile App Development at U of T?!

A year ago, I was like Mum in this exchange:

Well, okay, maybe a more like a year and a half ago.

Not much has changed since then (my techie idol is still Pac Man)

However, in tune with my exploration of all things Techie on campus, this week I’d like to focus Mobile Application Development at U of T.

Mobile App Development is – yup, you guessed it – the process of developing user-friendly applications that can be used on smartphones and other platforms. There are actually many mobile applications being developed right at this moment at U of T. It seems as though students, seeking solutions to common user problems that they face at U of T, are developing apps that make U of T more student –friendly.

For instance, Rashid Ali from UTSC developed Study Space Spotter, an app that allows students to find available study space, printers or workstations on campus. Perfectly handy on those busy days when it seems as though every (yes, every) space in the library is taken.

Study Space Spotter- for days when the library looks like this:

In fact, students at UTSC have made great strides in terms of creating apps. Waqas Nawaz, Mohammad Azmi and Neil Mendonca from UTSC developed an app that connects students with food on campus. What2Eat@UTSC doesn’t only list which foods are available on campus, it also allows you to search for foods by keyword and even rate food on a five-star scale.

The Hub Ideation + Experiential Centre at UTSC is a new space (it opened in October 2012) that provides an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students and faculty to come together and develop new ideas, whether they are mobile apps, novel technologies or social innovations.

I hear you thinking: that’s what’s up at UTSC. What’s going on at St. George??

My thoughts exactly. So I did some looking around at what we’re up to on our end. It seems to me that U of T St. George has fascinating pockets of Mobile App Development going on, along with other spaces that foster innovation.

For instance, the Mobile Applications Lab in Bahen 4158, headed by Professor Parham Aarabi and Professor Jonathan Rose, is all about creating mobile apps with a focus on sensing and information processing. The lab is open to all U of T students and staff who are interested in mobile applications research. The lab is creating some amazing work, however, it seems to me that its users are already well-versed in computer science and technology.

Rotman’s Creative Destruction Lab is yet another space that seeks to connect undergraduates and their brilliant ideas with experienced entrepreneurs in order to spin thoughts into reality. Any and all ventures can be explored – be they mobile apps or social innovation initiatives. The Lab is open to all U of T students and recent grads (yup, that means you!).

But – what about a space that fosters creativity but that is not tied to any particular department or faculty?

Enter MADLab, soon to set up shop in Gerstein Library. Here is what you’ve been waiting for, St. Georgers: a collaborative space where you can exchange ideas and create mobile apps, regardless of what you are studying (Humanities majors welcome!).

Once the renovations are complete, MADLab will open as U of T’s first incubator for mobile and web app development. Resources will be available to students, along with access to mentors. A range of faculty from different departments will also be working with students in projects and ideation processes.

Mike Spears, manager of the Mobile App Development Lab, emphasizes that prior knowledge of computer programming or app development is not a prerequisite to participate (it’s true!). When I ask Mike what makes him excited about MADLab, he smiles and mentions that the most important part of MADLab will be community building.

MADLab will be a space where you can let your creativity run wild – and turn your ideas into something viable, with the help of students and professors across faculties. Think informal interactions, innovation, design, collaboration, partnership and yes, just plain fun.

Bonus: MADLab will also contract out it services to U of T and beyond. So, if you develop an app with others, you could be hired by U of T or another external source that wants to work with your expertise.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? MADLab hopes to be up and running soon. Check back at U of T’s website for all things mobile for more information.

 A last question for you: if you were to develop an app, what would it be?

 -Aziza