How many anthropology students does it take to develop a mobile application? Just one, if you also have engineering, business and graphic arts students on your team.
About 80 Florida Atlantic University from the four disciplines teamed up to develop health-related mobile applications as part of a new interdisciplinary course.
The outcome of “Android App Design and Project Management,” offered in the spring semester for the first time, was seven potentially marketable health-related applications. Some of the students are trying to take their projects to market.
One of the apps tracks patients’ symptoms in a journal for doctors. Another one helps people find doctors, see reviews and make appointments, and there’s an app to notify users when it’s time to take their medications. Other ones help the uninsured find healthcare services, aid the elderly and disabled during times of crises, such as hurricanes, and allow doctors to electronically write, send and keep a record of prescriptions.
At least one of the apps, called Quick Key Campus, has already become part of a student business. Quick Key Campus is an emergency call application intended for students in an emergency situation. The application has a special code for setting off an emergency alert on the phone and notifying university authorities and emergency services.
From taking the class, Mathew Hudson, project leader of the Quick Key Campus team, learned that bringing people together from different disciplines to reach a common goal and help people “is my passion, it’s my heart.”
Hudson, a senior majoring in international business, has already started the business with one of his class team members, Andrew Stadtlander, an engineering major. They named the company Stadson Technology and they brought on three members from the class team, plus others, to fine-tune the app, now in the demo phase, and then go to market. They are already in talks to potentially launch it at FAU, and then they hope to go nationwide.
“We had a blast doing it. Now we have created a business out of it and we have office space [in the Technology Business Incubator] just off campus,” Hudson said.
This course was the first to bring four disciplines together, but FAU’s business school has been active in hands-on and interdisciplinary learning, said Jeanne McConnell, instructor in the College of Business. This summer, five FAU students are participating in paid internships with Lockheed Martin to develop a prototype for a device that was originally conceived during her entrepreneurship course that teamed up FAU business and engineering students with industry experts.
McConnell was also one of the four professors, each from a different college, who taught the mobile application class. She explained that the seven teams developed working prototypes and marketing plans. “At the end of the class, instead of a final exam they presented a business plan — very practical, very real life,” said McConnell.
OK, but why anthropology? “We needed programmers, we needed art students for the user interface and of course the business students. But when you put together a bunch of personalities, the anthropology students offered a human perspective we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said McConnell.
One of those students was Mark Anthony Burgarelli, who graduated in May in anthropology and is now working for an advertising agency doing market research. He also plans to pursue his master’s in anthropology. In one of the groups, he acted as an observer studying the group dynamics. As part of a second group, he applied his anthropological research skills to conducting market research for the team.
“The students loved the idea of working on something that is really current,” Burgarelli said. “Students often ask, ‘When will I use this stuff?’ It’s this kind of project that shows where you will use the stuff.”