Several years after three Carolina students created a free app and online service to help students snag the classes they want, the trio realized that they could eliminate substantial hurdles with support from ITS.
They did and they have. Now Joe Puccio, Kevin Anderson and An Li, the developers of UNC Class Checker, have institutional support and easier access to information and to potential users.
The student developers and ITS managers are thrilled with the collaboration. ITS even hired the three app developers as student workers.
“It’s been a relief to have University support and not have to worry so much about our thrown-together solutions falling apart,” said Li, a junior from Winston-Salem who is majoring in business administration with a minor in computer science.
“We reached out to ITS initially because as a three-person team we can only do so much,” Li said. ITS can provide better infrastructure, support and integration as well as reach to the entire student body. Class Checker currently is “patched together and we’d like to make it a little more seamless.”
ITS’ support went “above and beyond”
Puccio, a junior math and computer science major from Chapel Hill, was surprised by the degree to which ITS Enterprise Applications supported them as developers. “I figured that they would give us the infrastructure support and help us with our mail-server problems, but they’ve really gone above and beyond that,” he said.
“They’ve been incredible,” said Anderson, also a junior from Winston-Salem, who is majoring in astrophysics and applied mathematics. “They’ve been very nice and helpful and eager to help us out in any way that we want,” he said.
ITS’ support makes make his job a lot easier and greatly simplifies the process of accessing publicly available information. “Working together is much easier than two separate forces working apart,” he added.
Class Checker texts users when a class has an available seat, easing the frustration associated with registration.
Initially unsuccessful without access to students
Puccio, who had programmed as a hobby, wrote the initial program when he didn’t get into all the classes he wanted the summer before his freshman year. He enhanced the program for friends and later, with encouragement from Li, Puccio released it as a Mac app. Initially it was “wildly unsuccessful,” he said, partly because “it was difficult to get the word out.”
By November 2012, after some refinements, 900 students had signed up. But collecting the information for the database remained terribly cumbersome. Each semester, one of the three developers has had to take his turn of adding to his online cart thousands of classes that users were tracking, so their program can scrape the cart for the open and closed class tags.
“It makes one of us very unhappy every semester,” Anderson said.
Class Checker has had 7,000 unique users.
The developers and ITS are “working out the fine details of accessing information directly,” Anderson said. “It’s been a long process to get something that both of our systems can accommodate, but it looks like it should be coming together pretty soon.”
Developers enjoy helping fellow students
“It might sound silly, but it has been very fun to watch everything we’ve done come together and work,” he said. “It’s cool knowing that my work is being used by thousands of people.”
“It’s meant a lot to know that we’ve helped students,” Puccio said. “I get very, very stressed about registration, which is why I was motivated to work on and perfect these applications. Hopefully we’ve made the registration process a little less intimidating for other students.”
ITS also supports Class Finder app
In addition to Class Checker, Puccio – with a friend at Harvard University – created an app in 2013 called UNC Class Finder, which aids in the arduous process of finding classes to take. ITS also is supporting Puccio with that app, which has had 30,600 unique visitors.
This experience with ITS is preparing the three developers for their post-graduation pursuits – and maybe some things they’d like to accomplish while still in college.
“Working with ITS has taught me about professional software development, which is an area I’m considering after graduation,” Puccio said.
Li hopes to apply the knowledge he’s gaining about enterprise-level IT infrastructure to a career in tech consulting. Anderson, meanwhile, wants a career in physics, “but working with ITS continues to be some good real-world experience outside of pure academia.”
Apps may roll out to other universities
In the more near term, the student developers are looking into making apps similar to Class Checker and Class Finder for other universities.
Puccio also has created other apps:
- Estipaper: This tool estimates the time it takes to write papers of different length. It has had 10,000 unique visitors since its release in early October. http://estipaper.com/
- 6Tracker: This app notifies users when an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus is available at a nearby Apple Store. It has had 80,000 unique visitors and 56,000 sign-ups since its release in late September. http://6tracker.com/
- OneTask: This app motivates users to complete their most important daily task by rewarding them with a new beautiful picture when the task is completed. It was released in mid-October. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/onetask/id916506650?mt=8.
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