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Engineering, journalism students present collaborations at tech showcase

A man speaks to a crowd with a microphone in his hand.

Zach Winkler speaks at the presentation of his group’s capstone project, Mark! His team includes information technology graduates Ben Poland (back left) and Justin Gudermuth (back right).

Engineering and journalism students shared the fruits of their labor from the past semester — or in some cases longer — at the University of Missouri Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Technology Showcase in May.

In addition to apps recognized at the RJI Windows 8 Student Competition early in the day, two capstone teams from the College of Engineering’s Computer Science Department and Information Technology Program presented their design projects:

Mark!

A computer capstone project started last fall that aims to connect users through photos, Mark! is a photo sharing and social networking app. It allows users to take photos with geographical “marks” shareable through users’ Facebook accounts.

In addition to sharing the marks they’ve made, users can also see marks that others have taken near where they are standing. The five closest geographical marks to a user’s location appear on his or her mobile device’s screen.

Two screenshots from the iPhone app, Mark!

Mark! users have the ability to see their marks as photos or on a map. They may also caption their marks, which are shareable with other users.

Recent computer science graduate Zach Winkler and information technology graduates Ben Poland and Justin Gudermuth designed the app. An initial version, Mark! 1.0, is available for Apple users to download for free from the App Store, and the team presented the next iteration of the project at the showcase.

“We want our users to ‘mark’ while traveling,” Winkler said. “It’s not only a timeline of an individual user, but all the users in that location.”

The updated app includes an overhaul made in response to user feedback, including better navigation, a finer tuned ratio of marks and other “visual and user experience changes.” The group also plans to make Mark! 2.0 available to Android users.

Winkler said he hopes to have the 2.0 version out by the end of the summer.

Audio Pixel Alpha

Recognizing a lack in advancement of sound technologies, the capstone group working on the Audio Pixel Alpha project devised a system of speakers that uses Kinect technology to produce sound that is responsive to movement.

“We wanted to immerse the user in an exhibit-like experience where they can control the position of audio on a fairly big grid of speakers,” team leader Ethan Calvert, a recent IT graduate, said at the presentation.

The group’s initial design of 24 speakers — or “pixels” — are linked together and arranged in a 6-by-4 pattern. The Kinect technology recognizes a user’s hand gestures, and the system directs sound through the pixels that correspond with and follow the hand movement.

Calvert’s group included fellow information technology graduate Ben Bigelow and computer science graduates Kirk Backus, Jaime Sinden and Johnny Winters. Their goal for this project was to establish an expandable technology.

See a demonstration of how the grid works.

Three additional presentations of projects created in a mobile application class from the School of Journalism combined the efforts of journalism and engineering students. Groups were assisted by RJI’s Microsoft Application Development Lab manager Tyten Teegarden, under the supervision of Associate Professor Michael McKean, director of the RJI Futures Lab, and Associate Teaching Professor Dale Musser, director of MU Engineering’s IT Program:

Command Clipboard

Boone County Fire Protection District volunteer firefighter and journalism student Casey Batezel knows about communication and command challenges at the scene of an emergency. Working with fellow journalism student Liz Stratman and computer science students Brandon Murphy, Ceili Cornelison, IT students Cory Hake, Andrew Dominick, Robert King, and physics student Ryan Cleeton, the group developed a mobile app that serves as a “clipboard” for emergency response crews at a site.

The app may be utilized my multiple tablet devices all linked to a central server, which communicates to the virtual clipboards. One device may be designated as the command, which oversees the operations onsite. The app also gives users en route the ability to view the virtual clipboard before arriving at the scene.

Batezel said the app has support from the Boone County Fire Protection District, with integration possible in the future.

ReLocator

For graduating and rising seniors, a job after college involves more than a potential employer. Housing availability, cost of living and even weather may play a role in a graduate’s post-college plans. Realizing she would be joining the population of post-college job seekers, Jenner Smith, a senior studying journalism, came up with the idea for ReLocator.

Working with fellow journalism student Jo Yu Wang, recent IT graduate Mingyao Zhu, and IT students Ryan Haslag, Cleefton Belizaire and Lewem Zhang, ReLocator utilizes data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Weather Service. Users input data for the area of business or industry they’d like to work, preferred type and cost of housing, climate and more. The app then suggests a “perfect” city in which to live and work based on the user’s input. Developers managed to coordinate the response data for 10 cities by the end of the class.

Compeer

Emily Stewart is a graduate student in journalism who worked with journalism senior Katie Roach, recent IT graduate Ryan Burr and IT students Steven Stout, Steven Ziegler, Tyler Morton and Mike Robertson on an app that would assist those with disabilities in finding a restaurant that is responsive to their needs.

In the way Yelp or Zagat would rate restaurants’ food and experience, users of Compeer could look at various restaurants’ ADA-friendliness based on what other app users have determined.  Restaurants are rated on an academic scale for criteria such as motor, vision and hearing accommodations. Additionally, users may submit custom reviews or submit “yes or no” data indicating if an establishment is service-animal friendly, has Braille menus and more.

Stewart said she and Roach are continuing with the project, hoping to launch it by the end of the summer.