Students Develop Mobile Apps for City of Hartford and Local Organizations

Innovative Program Harnesses the Coding Talents of Area Youth

HARTFORD, Conn., August 19, 2014 – Hartford residents looking to obtain a birth certificate, pay a tax bill, or participate in a public hearing may soon find navigating city government a little easier thanks to a kiosk on its way to City Hall. Just around the corner, theater-goers can watch a play from seats they reserved over TheaterWorks’ new app: they may have even discovered the theater using a new app that helps tourists explore Hartford.

What do they have in common? These apps and others were developed by 20 area high school students this summer on Trinity’s campus through the innovative Mobile Apps for Hartford program.

Students demonstrate their "Welcome to City Hall" app developed for the City of Hartford.
 When Mayor Pedro Segarra saw the conclusion of last year’s Mobile Computer Science Principles (Mobile CSP) program, which prepared area educators to teach a mobile computer science course to their high school students, he immediately thought about how these new skills could put Hartford on the cutting edge – what he called “Cities 3.0.”

Teachers from that program – funded by a $900,000 National Science Foundation grant authored by Ralph Morelli, professor of computer science – went on to teach the course at schools around Connecticut, and some of their students came to Trinity this summer for Mobile Apps for Hartford.

“The students in Connecticut are lucky to have these teachers,” Segarra said.

The students, selected from a pool of very strong applicants, were paid a stipend of $1,200 for their work and learned at Friday’s presentation that they would be able to keep the mobile devices and tablets that they used throughout the program. They developed applications for six clients.

“Hartford Area Tour” was developed for the Old State House, and includes information about tourist attractions in Hartford. It also allows users to create custom itineraries based on their areas of interest. “Hartford Youth Services”, created for Hartford’s Department of Families, Children, Youth, and Recreation, includes a calendar of events and contact information for various youth services offered by the City of Hartford. “Rewards 4 YOU” is an app created for the Hartford Public Library, which will allow users to earn and redeem points as a reward for visiting the library and its forthcoming YOUMedia Center. “RiseUP” is a tool for young people to identify and sign up for volunteer opportunities. The TheaterWorks app is a mobile version of the TheaterWorks website, including a seating chart, news about upcoming performances, and a donation tool. “Welcome to City Hall” is a kiosk application that – in both English and Spanish –will help visitors to Hartford’s City Hall navigate the building, identify which city departments provide which services, and send messages directly to the Mayor.

The students worked with Morelli, Connecticut Computer Science Teachers Association president Chinma Uche, Mobile Apps for Hartford program leader and teaching consultant Pauline Lake, lead instructor and Wethersfield High School teacher Joseph Kess, and two Trinity students: Christine Boyle ’15, and Kenneth Thomas ’17. They also spent time with the client organizations they were building the apps for.

The Mobile CSP program for teachers continued this year, with a new group of 16 educators from 14 schools preparing to teach the course this coming school year, bringing the total to 25 teaching the course in Connecticut schools. Though the program is only entering its second year, students have already set the bar high for what can be accomplished.

Photos by John Atashian. View more photos from the event here.