Kids gamely app-ly road safety mes­sage

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

Ruben the Road Safety Bear now has his own An­droid phone app – thanks to some nifty pro­gram­ming work by a group of students from Waikato Univer­sity’s Depart­ment of Com­puter Sci­ence.

The five students pro­duced a set of sim­ple An­droid-based games for kids in ful­fil­ment of the COMP 314 soft­ware engi­neer­ing project – a three-month ex­er­cise for thirdyear students to work in groups to de­sign and im­ple­ment a medi­um­sized soft­ware project for a client.

The games are now avail­able as a free down­load from the Google Play­store.

Jenny Davis, trans­port projects ad­min­is­tra­tor at the Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil, said it’s a very ‘‘cool’’ out­come.

‘‘We had the idea be­cause we wanted some­thing to drive home the road safety mes­sage for 3 to 7-year-olds. I saw a kid play­ing with his mum’s phone and then I saw the story in the pa­per about how the univer­sity was look­ing for pro­gram­ming projects for students, so I got in touch right away.

‘‘I know noth­ing at all about pro­gram­ming – I didn’t even know what an app was, so the students have held my hand all the way through the project. It’s been a re­ally stress-free project for me.’’

The students first had to de­cide the best for­mat to de­liver Ruben’s mes­sage to young chil­dren.

‘‘ We had the choice be­tween some­thing ed­u­ca­tional or a game,’’ said Ashish Mathai. ‘‘ We def­i­nitely de­cided that an ed­u­ca­tional games for­mat would be best.’’

They cre­ated four games – one for each mes­sage: Be bright – dress bright; Stop, look, lis­ten and link; Hel­met on right and tight; and Seat your­self right, buckle in tight.

One game asks the chil­dren to change the colour of the clothes Ruben is wear­ing and check it against a ‘‘ bright- o- me­ter’’; an­other re­quires kids to match the icons for stop, look, lis­ten and link within a set time. If they suc- ceed, the cross­ing light turns green and Ruben gets to cross the road with a friend.

The team had an ad­van­tage in hav­ing a com­puter graphic de­sign stu­dent in the group, Jamie Killen, who took charge of all the art work. An­other stu­dent Wany­ing Yang took care of a lot of the pro­gram­ming.

Team mem­ber Nigel Pirikahu said Jenny Davis was the per­fect client.

‘‘She was clear what she wanted but also open to our ideas and re­ally sup­port­ive. We spent three weeks on the de­sign as our ideas had to meet her ex­pec­ta­tions.’’

All the students say the ex­pe­ri­ence has been hugely valu­able. ‘‘This pa­per was rec­om­mended to me,’’ says Lifu Sun.

‘‘ Em­ploy­ers want real- world ex­pe­ri­ence, and this pa­per cer­tainly gives you that.’’

Lec­turer Dr David Streader said the soft­ware engi­neer­ing project is a great op­por­tu­nity for clients and students alike.

‘‘Our students are in their fi­nal year of their com­puter sci­ence de­gree, so by now they’ve got all the pro­gram­ming skills they need.

‘‘For them, it’s been an op­por­tu­nity to learn how to work as a team, and plan and de­liver a project within bud­get and on time – it’s real world skills like these that make our grad­u­ates so sought af­ter in the IT sec­tor,’’ he said.

App owner: Ruben the Road Safety Bear.

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