published Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Trion students develop iPhone app

by Kelli Gauthier
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    Three teenagers developed a Trion City Schools iPhone application. Staff photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press
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The news came in a tweet: Trion City Schools developed an iPhone app.

Officials from the tiny school system — home to three schools on one campus — say they like to think they’re leading the technology charge in North Georgia with an application that, for now, includes calendar information, cafeteria menus, district news and athletics announcements.

“As a school system, we are really focused on giving our students a chance to advance using technology,” said Howard Hughes, Trion’s technology director. “Funding is a challenge, but when we see opportunities to let students know technology is important, we seek them out.”

In this case, the mission to develop an iPhone app didn’t originate from a class assignment, but in a conversation between Hughes and then-sophomore Jake Reeves, who wanted to try his hand at computer programming. The final product was the creation of Reeves, Hughes and Trion High School student Zev Greenberg, who just graduated and will be studying at Georgia Institute of Technology this fall.

Reeves, 16, said most of the six months he worked on the app were spent figuring out how to begin. He plans to minor in computer software design in college, and hopes his work on the app will set him apart from his competition.

“No. 1, it’s not just something you do to do it. When you sit down and talk to a college, they’ll look at you really strongly when you do something like this,” he said.

While Hughes is glad his protégé has learned something about computer programming, he said learning how to find and synthesize information, mostly from the Internet, has been the most important lesson.

“[Jake] has skills now that allow him to go out and seek information and bring all those pieces together and build something amazing ... something that six months ago he didn’t think possible,” Hughes said.

Reeves, a rising junior, said he and the app’s other developers hope to continue adding features to their creation. He’d eventually like for students to be able to click on a teacher’s name and see the homework due in their classes, he said.

Although he’s been asked to create an Android version of the app, Hughes said for now they’re going to stick with the iPhone.

Trion Superintendent Phil Williams, who’s perused the calendar, athletics articles and lunch menu, said the new app “has the potential to become something big.”

“It’s just come in handy on several occasions,” Williams said of the app, which was released a couple of weeks before school let out for the summer. “I think in our area, we’re the only school system that has actually created something like this. And you know what? There’s going to be others that follow. This is how the world is now.”

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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