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Want to learn how to build your own App? Come to Professor Kini’s garage

By introducing App creation skills, professor is bringing innovation to IU Northwest’s business education

Friday Apr 19, 2013

Many people know that the first Apple computer was invented in the late CEO Steve Jobs’ garage. But, perhaps not as many know that the “i” preceding Apple product names represents a number of concepts, including internet, individual, instruct, inform and inspire.

Much like in Jobs’ garage, the birthplaces for innovation are often in unlikely places, perhaps even a tiny room off the first-floor lounge in the Dunes Medical / Professional building at Indiana University Northwest. This is where Professor of Business Administration Ranjan Kini, Ph.D., is introducing some of his business students to a tool that could help them one day make a name for themselves with their own “garage-style” innovation.

Welcome to IU Northwest’s iGarage, where the “i” stands for Innovation.

After first learning some basic computer skills in Kini’s business classes, students who want to learn how to create their own Apps and download them onto their hand-held devices have the option of visiting the iGarage on Friday afternoons. There, Kini introduces them to tools that make easy work of putting the building blocks of complex computer coding together.

In the iGarage, business students -- who often shy away from anything that resembles computer programming -- quickly realize that they, too, can create what they may have thought only an advanced computer programmer can do.

Used together, a program called Scratch and another called App Inventor enable students to make their App ideas to reality without knowing a single bit of programming language and within only a couple of hours.

Kini wants to see that imagination become entrepreneurship and marketability for business students.

That is the edge that IU Northwest business graduates will have, Kini said. “Businesses need business majors. But they also need tech-savvy folks to develop Apps relevant to their businesses. Our grads will provide both of those experts, rolled into one.”

“If these students can learn App development, their ideas can be converted to Apps, and this makes them more marketable in the business world,” Kini said. “You don’t need an IT expert to conceptualize an App. Apps are conceptualized by users, who then ask their IT people to develop the App. Why not give this capability to our business majors?”

Larry Davy, a junior majoring in business administration, recently attended Kini’s Friday iGarage session. After about 40 minutes of going through tutorials, he made a cat meow on his phone. And while a cat’s meow may not have much practical use in business, learning the steps to make it happen help students hone marketable skills. They will learn how to apply those skills in a more practical way, like pulling business data together from their company, for instance.

This capability is not limited to business majors. Students will soon be able to develop an App for any employer, regardless of their discipline, Kini said.

“I’m interested in learning how all of these things that people are putting onto the phones, how they are doing it,” Davy said. “Depending on the business, if they have Apps or don’t have Apps, I could develop one for them specifically.”

App creation is a skill that is increasingly being taught to middle school-aged children in other parts of the country and is quickly filtering down to younger students, Kini said. App Clubs are popping up in numerous high schools in other parts of the country, Kini said, but not yet in Northwest Indiana.

IU Northwest is ahead of the curve when it comes to the relatively new field of App creation, Kini said. “Our intention is to first, give students the capability and tools and confidence that they can do this. Then, they can easily move into whatever development is sought after now. Companies are pouring a ton of money into App development right now.”

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