Step Reflection: App Development

Alexander Vavra

Artistic and Creative Endeavors

 

  1. Project Description:

My STEP transformational project was to build a mobile application for iOS entirely on my own. The goal was to take a development project from its infancy all the way through solution analysis, system planning, implementation and testing on my own. By doing this, I would not only test my limits as a programmer and computer science student, but also get a taste for what areas in the industry I prefer to work in.

 

  1. What Changed/Transformed:

I find myself blessed to have a very well-formed passion for my chosen field of study. I’ve always loved computer science, in particular the area of software engineering, but I never realized just how deep it goes, just how much work it takes. I’m still sure that one person can do it all, but for anything but a nontrivial application, it’s very difficult and requires a dedication that makes succeeding super difficult.

The good news? I’m still in love with computer science. I got to dig deep into APIs I’d never experienced before, drop into lower level code for more complex tasks than I’d ever attempted to tackle, and wire together UI components that I’d probably never see if I had stuck to only class work. I now know that I will be happy just about anywhere in the world of Computer Science, but upon graduation I want to focus on writing code, implementing solutions, and solving complex and challenging problems.

 

  1. What Led to the Transformation:

When you sit down and design a piece of software, you first have to find a problem worth solving. The difficult thing about this is that all of the low-hanging fruit has already picked, so if you’re trying to create a project just for the project’s sake, finding a problem where your passion matches the work involved is difficult.

When I first designed my project, it was to be completed the summer of 2015, but just a week into summer my father passed away. The day before most of my supplies to begin developing my app arrived, I was in the hospital with him after a work accident. I said goodbye, and all of a sudden I didn’t have the drive to work anymore. I postponed. I dragged my feet. I fiddled with things, but never committed. I ended up not really starting till this past summer, 2016, and when I did my outlook on the world was very different from when I designed the project in the first place.

My project time during the last summer intersected with time I spent at an Internship with Nationwide Insurance on their IT App Dev team. During the days I went to work, and at night I used the skills I had learned to work on my own toy applications. I did requirements analysis on many small problems/annoyances I had in life, I designed User Interfaces on my small sketchpads, I focused not on the coding, but on finding the right problem to tackle—one I was passionate about. Currently, the application is still under construction, but the goal is for it to allow students to view which classrooms around them are free of classes for any certain amount of time so that students can work or study in those unused rooms.

Creating an app like this has taught me a lot—not about the coding as I had originally intended—but about everything else. To build the app I needed access to not just my computer, but with many people too. I had to contact the registrar to ask them for class schedules which I could map to rooms. I needed access to a list of all rooms in all of the buildings, too. The exercise of creating all of these business relationships was not only informative, but it gave me a good understanding of what working with a large group of people was like.

 

  1. Why is the Transformation Significant?

My transformation is significant because it is still in progress. Being able to attack these problems on my own terms with my own development equipment is by far the largest advantage I have in preparing for the workplace. The work that I have done has already netted me interviews, technical discussions with industry professionals, and confidence in my own abilities beyond the classroom.

More than the coding, this transformation is important because it helped me through the difficult time I had dealing with my father’s death. Once I regained my focus, I was able to build things, solve problems, move into a role of independence in my academic/professional domain in a way that I would have struggled to without the supplies and drive that STEP gave me. Without my experience, I don’t know if I would have fallen in love with my major all over again or not—and to me that’s very scary. My STEP experience has been—and will continue to be— transformational in a deeply personal way.