It’s something most new students experience: going into a classroom, choosing a random seat and possibly being stuck in that seat for the semester. Some students luck out and snag the perfect spot; it’s comfy and situated near an electrical outlet. For others, the chair might be broken or it’s in a Wi-Fi dead spot.
Ying Yao realizes that finding the perfect seat is a small problem, but it’s one she wanted to tackle. So she and two other Georgia Tech students decided to build a web-based application.
“So you know when you look online and book a flight?” she said. “You wanna know where’s the best place to sit. So we wanted to apply that issue to classroom seating."
SeatMe is a crowdsourced app; students can log in, find the appropriate building and classroom and rate their seat based on specific criteria. The evaluation is represented via a heat map—a two-color scale of good and bad. (WATCH: A demo of SeatMe)
Yao’s team developed the app in 2012 as part of Tech’s bi-annual Convergence Innovation Competition. The competition is open to all Georgia Tech undergraduate and graduate students, including those studying abroad. Applications, services and prototypes developed during the Fall CIC benefit the Georgia Tech community; winning apps are then made available in the official GT Mobile platform.
The Fall CIC is sponsored through the GT Journey initiative, which provides resources as well as technical support and space to work. What makes the competition unique, though, is the access students have to campus data.
Andrew Nelson, who helped Yao to develop the SeatMe app, is currently working with Facilities Management to open up their data on how much electricity is flowing to buildings on campus. He’s also taken campus crime data and developed it into an API format.
“Programmers could go in and pull in all of the crime data live as it’s posted,” he said.
Brighton Jegarajan leveraged GT Journey transportation data to develop a Google Glass app that tells users when the next bus or trolley will arrive.
“Once you have this (data), it’s up to users and the students here to think of innovative ways of using it,” he said. “So there’s a lot of innovation and creativity engaged by making this data available to students here.”
Some colleges and universities aren’t as comfortable with allowing students to access campus data. They’re concerned about student privacy and find it’s easy to just say no.
"Georgia Tech is able to provide access to data and protect that data appropriately because it has developed API's which enforce access controls specific to the data being accessed. This allows developers to create applications using those API's without having direct access to another student's data, and without ever having to handle the students password," said Matt Sanders, Associate Director of the Georgia Tech Research Network Operations Center (GT-RNOC) which hosts the CIC. "These API's also allow data which is normally not accessible to students to be made available in scalable and secure ways which do not impact production systems."
Yao believes student-built apps developed with campus data help to enrich the campus experience.
“We have such smart students,” said Yao. “They want to be able to not only practice their professional skillset, but also contribute something to the campus community as well.”
The Fall GT Journey CIC is underway right now. Organizers are hosting weekly information sessions and tutorials, and there’s a four-day Hack Break starting October 11th. Entries are due October 31st; for more information, visit http://cic.gatech.edu or http://gtjourney.gatech.edu.