Saving lives: There’s an app for that

Colorado School of Mines students participating in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science 2013 field session helped develop a new mobile application designed to expedite the Golden Fire Department’s emergency response.

The session, officially called “Advanced Software Engineering” is a six-week, team-based course. According to Professor Cyndi Rader, students apply their knowledge and skills to real problems submitted by real clients – in this case, Denver mobile application developer Double Encore and the Golden Fire Department (GFD).

“Students take full responsibility for completing a small project, which includes gathering requirements, designing and implementing the software and ensuring the customer is satisfied,” said Rader, noting students often assist their clients by suggesting alternatives and exploring options.

GFD Lt. Chad Wachs initially proposed the idea for the project.

“While navigating to emergencies, members of the GFD had to use a massive, 20-pound binder that contained detailed maps of the city,” said Derek Schissler, a senior majoring in computer science. “Since all the fire engines already had iPads installed in them, Lt. Wachs went to Double Encore to help him consolidate the large binder of maps onto an iPad.”

Rader said projects with a social impact, such as this app, tend to appeal to students.

“I have the utmost respect for firefighters and EMTs, so being able to give back to them and make their jobs just a little easier is extremely satisfying,” said John Aspinwall, a senior double majoring in electrical engineering and computer science with a minor in mechanical engineering. “I feel great about the work that we did knowing what an important impact it will have.”

The mobile app allows firefighters to quickly locate the address of an emergency as well as the proximity to fire hydrants and other important information, without having to fumble through cumbersome, inefficient print map books.

“We all felt satisfied knowing we built a product that would be so vital in saving lives and properties right here in Golden,” said Schissler, “it felt rewarding to give back to firefighters that spend so much of their time dedicated to others.”

Students often need to learn a new language or technology to successfully complete their project, Rader said. This past summer, 70 students were assigned to 18 projects covering a wide range of technologies including mobile platforms, web development and special purpose devices.

The summer program experiences a number of repeat clients who often end up recruiting students for internships.