Feb 21, 2017 | Atlanta, GA
How many people can say they really love the work they do? That it brings them joy and a sense of accomplishment? Alex Perez can. He has been interested in app development and programming for nearly a decade, and will graduate this spring from Georgia Tech with a degree in computer science. In between his studies, and internships at Apple and Uber, the Woodstock native took on another big project doing what he loves – creating a new official app for Georgia Tech.
He worked on the project for a year and a half. “I took some breaks, and then there were months I worked on it every day. It took a lot of polishing and getting the details right,” he said.
The app has several new features, including a map showing real-time locations of Georgia Tech buses and trolleys, and a module with photos and information about each of the nearly 300 buildings on campus. Buildings are sorted by type – housing, sports, greek, academic and food. In the food section, app users can find out which restaurants are currently open and which will soon close. The new app also has campus events, student organizations, news and social media feeds.
“We wanted to build a completely new app from the ground up that looked great on all of the new screen sizes and had a ton of new features that had been missing or severely lacking in the old version,” said Perez.
Perez put a lot of time into the app, working with the Georgia Tech Research Network Operations Center (GT-RNOC) to receive access to data, resources and advice. Jeremy Johnson, Georgia Tech Senior Research Scientist, was instrumental in the app’s development and launch. Geunbae Lee, a graduate student in the Human Computer Interaction program, and Graduate Research Assistant in RNOC, informed aspects of the design. RNOC also has a Device Lending Library, where Perez was able to test the app on an assortment of phones and tablets running different versions of the operating system. “I have one model of the iPhone,” he explained. “There’s at least four different screen sizes I needed to test the app on to make sure that it looks right.”
Through RNOC’s GT-Journey initiative, which gives the Georgia Tech community the opportunity to collaborate on applications and solutions that benefit the campus, Perez obtained access to data, something other colleges and universities aren’t always comfortable doing for student developers. Working closely with partners from virtually every part of campus, RNOC also hosts the app’s server. GT Journey provides application developers access to data through APIs with appropriate controls specific to the data being accessed, facilitating smart campus academic research and entrepreneurship broadly. Perez believes having open access to real data enriches the quality of apps that students can make.
“As an app developer, having access to APIs and data sources where you can just easily tap into and build any app you want – that’s just an amazing thing. If I was at a different university that didn’t have that sort of thing, it would be so much harder to build the apps I build because I would have to build the entire data source myself.”
Matt Sanders, co-director of GT-RNOC, worked with Perez throughout the project. He said,“While Georgia Tech has no shortage of talented developers, Alex stands out because he balanced his vision and skills with thoughtfully dealing with a variety of challenges and saw the project to completion. Because of his dedication, he was able to leverage and improve upon the resources we provided and leaves a legacy that future students can build upon.”
Illustrating how rewarding and motivating he finds his work, Perez said, “I had a huge sense of accomplishment that I can have any app I want as long as I can write it.”
He's now working with students to support the iOS version of the app, and to develop it for Android.
Perez’ love of programming and app development and the knowledge he gained at Georgia Tech will stay with him in the next phase of his life. After graduation, he’s planning a cross country road trip and move to San Francisco to begin a job with Uber.
Download the Georgia Tech app for iOS