An app that combines all the essential Penn sites in one attractive platform sounds too good to be true, right? But PennMobile, an app launching Wednesday, does just that.
The app for both iOS and Android has the potential to make Penn students’ lives much simpler. It was developed by the Undergraduate Assembly and Penn Labs, an initiative funded by the UA and the Provost’s office to develop tech projects.
PennMobile will have an array of convenient and appealing features. Users can, for example,browse dining hall and cafe menus, search professor directories and classroom information, read The Daily Pennsylvanian and other campus publications and call safety services.
The app also has potential to familiarize students with traditionally underused yet highly useful services.
“Penn Transit is underutilized. A lot of people haven’t used it,” said College and Wharton sophomore Andrew Gegios, who is the UA secretary and coordinator of app development.
The app shows the location of shuttles, routes and even traffic patterns. “Before this app I didn’t even know where Penn Transit went, so we’re hoping this will make people want to use it much more,” he said.
In releasing PennMobile, Penn has finally caught up to other colleges and universities — most other Ivies have had apps like this for years. The app is modeled from similar apps at Princeton and Stanford, Gegios said.
“There’s the Yale app, the Harvard app. Penn’s actually behind on this,” said Wharton and Engineering senior Dhruv Maheshwari, who is the Penn Labs co-director. “So it’s exciting to see students taking the initiative to make this happen.”
The app is not perfect, but it is a work in progress. Maheshwari does not foresee PennKey services such as Penn InTouch being added for at least six months, due to the University’s confidentiality standards and some practical limitations within the coding process.
Leading up to the Wednesday launch of the app, PennLabs encountered its fair share of obstacles.
Other than technical difficulties with syncing up servers for app functions, the release day was pushed back several times. Gegios said Apple app regulations held the app back, while Maheshwari said recent updates to the app took additional time to be approved by the Apple App Store.
Penn Labs is opening up PennMobile’s development to public opinion. Students can suggest features they would like to see through a page within the app.
“We really hope a lot of people download it and give us feedback,” Maheshwari said. “I think what’s going to happen is we’re going to launch it, people will download it and then they’ll say ‘Oh, there are these bugs, and we want these features.’”
Although the app will inevitably change and improve over time, Penn Labs and the UA believe even the first version will fill a major need.“We wanted a one-stop shop for all of the students at the University of Pennsylvania, with things they could use every single day,” Gegios said. “On this decentralized campus there are a few things that should be all together and that students should be able to access in one place.
“It simplifies life at Penn,” he added. “It really has everything you would want.”
Penn Labs members Sacha Best, David Lakata, Adel Qalieh, and Alex Wissmann have been particularly instrumental in designing the app – Best developed the iOS version, Lakata and Qalieh created the Android version, and Wissman created code used to make the program function and communicate properly with servers.
The app is available for download at pennlabs.org/mobile linked link.
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