Topics: Emerging Media, College of Sciences and Humanities

September 15, 2009

Ball State's emerging media expertise has allowed the university to join Harvard and MIT in creating new software applications for Google's cell phone operating system.



An introductory computer science class taught by Paul Gestwicki, a computer science professor, will spend the fall semester developing applications for mobile phones loaded with Android.



Gestwicki's class has received 20 G1 developer phones loaded with Google's Android operating system. The students have access to Google's App Inventor for Android, which the company says allows students with no programming experience to create applications for sites like Facebook and Twitter. Google's Android-based mobile devices are the third most popular smart phone platform behind BlackBerry and the iPhone.



"One of the keys to being successful in computer science education is to motivate the students, allowing them to push the envelope," he said. "In this case, we are asking students with no programming experience to think about what they would like to have on their cell phones and then go create it. This is an entrepreneurial approach to learning that is highly successful at universities teaching technology."



Gestwicki points out that allowing students to participate in the Google project underscores the importance of Ball State's Emerging Media Initiative (EMI), a $17.7 million investment focusing the university's historic strengths in this area, accelerating benefits to the state of Indiana with media-savvy human capital.



"All the universities involved have a direct connection with MIT, which has been working with Google on this project," Gestwicki said. "However, I spoke with members of Google's project team at a recent conference. I was able to convey Ball State's strengths in emerging media and persuaded Google to invite us. It is quite a coup."



Other universities involved in the project include Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Michigan.



The experimental program between Google and the colleges gets under way as telecommunications firms prepare to release several new phones that run Google's Android operating system. Consumers in the United States can buy only two models of Android phones, but Google expects 18 to be on the market worldwide by the end of the year.



"These students may not go on to do computer programming after they graduate from Ball State, but this experience will give them a good understanding of its complexity," Gestwicki said. "Someday they may take leadership positions and have an appreciation for the technical side."