An app for all regions
May 20, 2014 Leave a comment
Not long ago listening to National Public Radio while traveling required hitting the scan button and jumping from station to station, listening to the feed diminish to static and then hitting the button again. Now, however, fans of local NPR station WMRA can listen from anywhere. Harrisonburg. Seattle. Tokyo. Perth. Or anywhere in between — thanks to JMU student Linzy Cumbia (’17). When Linzy got wind of a need in the community, he stepped up. And when communications major Daniel Vieth (’15) heard about it, he wrote a great story about Linzy — and it’s all worth sharing. Linzy is changing the landscape for a local radio station and Daniel is making sure we all know about it……
An app for all regions
By Daniel Vieth (’15)
Since Apple Inc. released the first iPhone back in 2007, the trend of smartphone ownership has continued to explode. According to Dara Kerr of technology and media website CNET, the number of American adults with smartphones was 56 percent in 2013. Part of what makes these phones so useful and almost necessary for many of us are the programs on the devices called “applications,” or “apps” for short. These apps are used to read emails, check the stock market, find out the weather, play Angry Birds at work, and keep up with the news. Many companies now are discovering the benefits of having an app built for them. Just like any computer program, however, each of these apps needs someone to take the time to write out its language, or code. When WMRA, Harrisonburg’s local NPR radio station, decided they wanted an iPhone app built for them, they made a bold decision about who they would hire to write this code. Instead of contracting a software company, WMRA hired talented JMU freshman Computer Science major, Linzy Cumbia, to develop their app.
As an affiliate of JMU, WMRA had considered the idea of seeking out a student to build their app from the beginning. “I had heard a lot of students were building apps,” explained Al Bartholet, executive director of WMRA. “We could have had it done commercially, but I wanted a computer science student to do it.” After WMRA sent out an email through JMU’s Information Server asking students if they would be interested in developing their app, Cumbia responded with enthusiasm. “I emailed back with a little portfolio of what I had done before, and they asked me to come in,” said Cumbia. Excited about Cumbia’s knowledge and skill in App development, WMRA immediately hired him. “I was so impressed with his knowledge and him as a person,” exclaimed Bartholet. “He had a maturity about him. He didn’t do it for monetary reasons, but to serve the community.”
With an interest in computer science and software development that goes back as far as he can remember, Cumbia taught himself how to develop apps during high school. “It took a while,” he confessed. “The first time I was looking at [the coding] like ‘it makes no sense,’ but then it finally clicked.” While WMRA’s project is Cumbia’s first app to be finalized and sold on the iPhone store, it is actually the third he has developed. “The first [app] that I did was for livestock management, because my family owns a farm in the Shenandoah Valley area and we have cows,” he explained. Once completed, this app will help farmers track and manage their animal’s location and health. Cumbia also began work on a restaurant app that will simplify the process of sending food orders from the wait staff to the kitchen. “Instead of having a pad of paper, the waiter has a phone that can wirelessly send the order to the kitchen, so that makes everything faster,” Cumbia continued.
The app that Cumbia developed for WMRA connects to the station’s website, downloads the information about what is currently playing, and streams the audio for people to listen to on their device. “It starts playing audio and displays what programs are on and how long it’s going to be running,” Cumbia explained. “It’s pretty straightforward.” The app was officially launched in late November of 2013, though WMRA only began heavily advertising it in late February. [It is available for iPhones and iPads.] Describing how it felt when the app finally went live, Cumbia said “that was pretty cool, because it was the first one I had gotten all the way to the store.” Since the app has launched, it has been downloaded by over 455* people.
The next step for Cumbia and WMRA will be the development of an Android version of the App, which is not as easy as it sounds. “The language is completely different,” Cumbia explained, “you just have to totally rewrite the code.” Despite the fact that this process involves nearly creating another app from scratch, Cumbia is ready to tackle the challenge. “It doesn’t intimidate me, nor does it intimidate him,” said Bartholet. For Cumbia, the development of this app was a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate his skills and gain practical experience. “This is not just a project that ends with a class,” said Bartholet. “It is something that would last.” With a project of this scale under his belt already, Linzy Cumbia is sure to do great things in his career.
*[Editor’s note: The count of downloads as of today is 748 and growing, plus the Android App is finished and available. In addition, Linzy is working on adding an “alarm clock” component. He’s also adding a reminder function that will automatically notify listeners when their favorite programs are about to air, as well as a news feature. These new features, Linzy says, “are coming soon.”
Daniel Vieth, whose story was originally posted on JMU’s Computer Science Department’s website in April, is a communications major with a concentration in public relations and a minor in writing and rhetoric. A senior from Roanoke, Va., Daniel says he hopes “to be able to take what I learn here at JMU and apply it to a career that I really enjoy working at every day.” He’s practicing up this summer, working as office assistant in the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center.
To download the FREE WMRA app, go to the iTunes store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wmra-radio/id748920458
To listen to an interview with Linzy by WMRA’s Martha Woodroof, go to: http://wmra.org/post/youthful-appeal