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Interdisciplinary student teams develop iPhone applications

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Interdisciplinary student teams develop iPhone applications

Drew Stewart, an Ag Journalism major, appears before a team of judges to pitch the iPhone application that he and three computer science students on Team Spacial developed for an MU based competition sponsored by the Reynolds Journalism Institute, Apple Computer and AT&T. Photo by Karen Stockman

At the crack of dawn on Jan. 29, a group of University of Missouri computer science and journalism majors, along with faculty representatives from MU’s Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and the College of Engineering, boarded a plane headed for Apple Computer headquarters in Cupertino, Cal.

Students making the trip are members of five finalist teams in competition to develop, test and market original applications for Apple’s iPhone. From an original field of 14, the five groups advancing to the development phase of the competition were selected based on presentations of their mobile “ap” prototypes to a team of judges in November.

The trip offered the MU students a unique opportunity to speak directly with Apple executives about features embodied in successful iPhone applications. Company professionals viewed team presentations and consulted with the students with comments and suggestions about their works-in-progress.

Teams returned to Columbia energized to fine-tune their iPhone applications, each designed with the criteria of improving the practice and business of journalism and advertising.

”We were given lots of useful feedback,” said Chris Stein, a computer science student and a member of Team Custom Fit News. “We have some new ideas for features we can add and incorporate into our application.”

Sponsored by RJI, Apple Inc. and AT&T, as well as MU’s Journalism School and Colleges of Engineering, Business, and Education and Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, interdisciplinary teams were required to include one J-school student and at least one student from another college or school on campus.

Teams formed in September at a “speed-dating” event attended by interested students from all disciplines. They were given roughly six weeks to come up with an idea and develop it to the point they could make a presentation to judges on Nov. 20 in RJI’s new Fred W. Smith Forum. Product research, a projected budget and a marketing plan were included in the presentations.

“Involving students from different disciplines – bringing different sets of skills to a problem for a collaborative solution – makes for a vital, vibrant learning environment,” said Dale Musser, director of Computer Science’s IT program within Mizzou Engineering. “I think this is the way education is headed. It’s exciting.”

Teams will make final presentations of completed applications near the end of the Spring Semester. The winning team will attend Apple’s 2009 Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco.

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