New Ready Badger App involves UWP students

Published: April 28, 2016
By: Kristin Crowe
In 2014, Derek Riley and Timothy Knautz, faculty members in the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Computer Science Department, discovered a need for a campus group that could support software development projects beyond the classroom. The two approached UW-Parkside leadership with an idea that involved students and faculty across academic disciplines. Administration responded with space and seed funding to support paid interns. In the summer of 2014, the App Factory was officially in business.

Later that year, Riley had a discussion with Peter Jensen, assistant team leader for Southeastern Wisconsin Incident Management, about how emergency managers could better communicate to the public. In January 2015, Riley and Jensen began working out the details for a new mobile app to be developed by the App Factory.

App FactoryRiley compiled a team of 15 students to work on the App Factory's newest creation, "Ready Badger." The team worked together to develop an app that is a one-stop shop for a variety of information including weather alerts and traffic updates. "Ready Badger" can also be used when applying for disaster aid or submitting a FEMA request.  

"The big advantage is that this provides the local emergency management office with direct communication with the public. Local emergency managers can now tailor alerts for literally any type of emergency that occurs and get information out in a timely fashion," Jensen said. 

Read more about Ready Badger media announcement.

According to Richard Busarow, a student iOS developer in the App Factory, the strength of "Ready Badger" is that it provides all of the information in one app that people would normally need two or three apps to obtain.

Students from Riley's Computer Science 476 Software Engineering Principles and Practice II class worked on the app, along with students from his previous classes who were working in App Factory. According to Busarow and fellow iOS developer Rhiannon Weiss, Riley required that the students spend six hours a week outside of class on app development to earn an A for the semester. Busarow said he put in roughly 22 hours per week. 

Ready Badger Cover

"Since I am graduating in May and looking for a job as an iOS developer, it is very, very important that I have experience, and (apps) on the App Store already," Busarow said. "This project gave me both of these things."

Weiss, a senior computer science major who will be graduating in December, encourages other computer science majors to get involved with the App Factory. Even though tight deadlines can mean long hours in the lab, Weiss said her experience in the App Factory taught her valuable lessons about software development.  

Tight deadlines also teach students how to work smarter. "When working with multiple platforms, it is important to coordinate what each group is doing so that we do not have to make so many major adjustments to our work," Busarow commented.

Before the start of the spring 2016 semester, Riley met with Dr. Fay Akindes, director of Community Based Learning at UW-Parkside. Akindes suggested the App Factory pair with Dr. Adrienne Viramontes' Communication 480 Practicum in Organizational Communication class.

The purpose of the course is to give students a "real-world" experience in order to apply communication concepts discussed in previous semesters to an actual situation. In the past, the class has done other Community Based Learning projects with partners such as the Hospice Alliance of Kenosha. This was the first semester that the communication class paired with the App Factory. "I would welcome the opportunity to work with the App Factory again, and I sense that we will," Viramontes said.

Similar to establishing the App Factory, the Communication 480 class formed the Parkside Communication Consultants (PCC), working in teams and individually on different parts of the project. Together, students used their organizational and event-planning knowledge, learned valuable lessons about writing on a deadline, and performed public opinion research and statistical analysis in order to put together a media campaign for "Ready Badger."

"I was excited to learn about our partnership with the App Factory," said senior communication major Alissa Pulda, a student in Viramontes' class. "We learned how to work as a team and it gave me real-world experience in creating a media campaign." Pulda created several documents for the campaign such as the press release, the research report, and the invitations for the press conference that was held April 12 for the public release of "Ready Badger."

Several county emergency managers, as well as Wisconsin Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca and Wisconsin State Senator Van Wanggaard attended the press conference at Parkside. The two state legislators were some of the first to download "Ready Badger."

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