Senior Design project launches in App Store

Nov 21, 2019      By Victoria Grdina

HCC2Go offers users a  a self-guided, interactive tour of the Holland Computing Center through their iPhone or iPad.
HCC2Go offers users a a self-guided, interactive tour of the Holland Computing Center through their iPhone or iPad.

An augmented reality app developed by a 2018-19 Senior Design team is now available for download in the Apple App Store. 

HCC2Go is a free iOS app that allows users to take a self-guided, interactive tour of the Holland Computing Center through their iPhone or iPad. Through HCC2Go, users can explore the Schorr Center, learn about HCC’s research and scientists, or complete a scavenger hunt to learn more about available resources and technology.

“The main goal was to show the high schoolers who visit that computer science is pretty cool and they should come study it here at UNL,” said Senior Design team member and squad lead Jacob Petersen. 

The project was sponsored by former Holland Computing Center director David Swanson and outreach and training specialist Carrie Brown. Swanson and Brown had received positive feedback from visitors about HCC’s virtual reality activity, but with only one VR headset, allowing groups to participate in demos proved challenging.

Swanson and Brown requested a new augmented reality application that could be used by multiple individuals at once. They allowed the Senior Design team to determine the rest of the project’s parameters.

“The students had to sort of dream up their own requirements,” said Senior Design project manager Melanie Kugler-Wright. “It’s typical for the sponsor to direct what they want, but it hardly ever happens where the project team themselves comes up with something to do. That was pretty unique. 

Not only did team members set their own goals for the project, but they also developed the many new skills required to meet them.

“None of us had experience with augmented reality, developing for iOS, or text recognition,” Petersen said. “It was cool to see and learn how it works and try to put something together.”

Despite initial learning obstacles, the team completed the project ahead of schedule, and decided to use the remainder of the course to gamify the app by adding a scavenger hunt component. Users can identify and scan various designated objects around the Schorr Center, then watch a 30-second video about an aspect of HCC associated with each one. 

The Senior Design team completed the project at the end of the 2019 spring semester and packaged the app for launch through the App Store. With the help of Senior Design development manager Kyle Conway and ITS software development specialist Hardik Patel, the team was able to pass HCC2Go through Apple’s vetting process over the summer, and officially launch it on September 24, 2019.

Kugler-Wright said that although the sponsors didn’t initially have a firm vision of a final product, they were very supportive of the team members and allowed them ample creative freedom throughout its development. For Petersen, that flexibility provided him with a valuable learning experience.

“In other classes, you’re always given a grading rubric of exactly what’s being looked for,” Petersen said. “With this project, it was interesting to play around with the tech and decide what works and what doesn’t.”

Kugler-Wright said she was impressed with the final product and believes Swanson, who passed away in August, would be pleased as well. 

“I’m really happy that it’s live,” Kugler-Wright said. “Given how we had to lose David, I would have liked for him to see it live, but now that it is live, it makes me happy.”