New app created by ICS students helps users navigate UCI campus

Have you found yourself frantically searching for a professor’s office, a class in an unfamiliar building, or even a bathroom at UC Irvine? New students, visitors and campus veterans alike sometimes face this dilemma. Now a free app dubbed ZOTfinder can help.

Created by Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences students at the request of campus police and others, the online tool provides directions and quick access to key numbers and crisis procedures from a smartphone.

“Our app allows you to not only search a location but also routes you … through the campus of UCI, so you’ll never feel lost,” explained student Horiya Ameen in a video showcasing the product last year. “And it has a built-in dialer that helps you call emergency numbers.”

Ameen and seven informatics classmates – all of whom have now graduated – worked on the design as part of lecturer Hadar Ziv’s Informatics 190 class, a Capstone course in which homework assignments are replaced with project due dates and deliverables. Working in teams, “they must apply for the first time all the textbook materials they’ve learned to real problems in the real world and to real users with real needs,” Ziv said.

This project’s challenge was that multiple sponsors had differing needs, from a restroom map overlay to identifying post-earthquake meeting places. “It is difficult even for professional developers to elicit requirements from several user representatives, but the team did it successfully,” Ziv said. “Student projects typically produce a proof-of-concept or prototype that is not ready for general use. But this team pushed all the way to a successful release to the Apple marketplace, to be followed by an Android Google Play release.”

ZOTFinder is partly based on PSearch, developed by computer science professor Chen Li and his team, which has a single input search box, allowing keyword queries on UCI names, UCInetID, telephone numbers, departments, and titles.

Type in “art department,” for example, and a blue line appears on a detailed map directing the user to that department from their current campus location. It joins other apps that allow searches for campus shuttle schedules and dining room menus.

“I think it’s awesome,” said emergency services manager Anne Widney, one of three campus officials who asked for the ZOTfinder app. “It really shows how advanced the computer sciences program is. It was built from the ground-up by the students of our campus. It’s just incredible.”

Others apparently agree. “We’ve had 900 downloads in not even a full week,” she added.

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