SGA green lights smartphone app for UH

The Student Government Association’s request for $59,125 of student fees for the development of a smartphone application was approved by the Student Fees Advisory Committee on Nov. 14.

“We need a Tier One way of communicating,” SGA President Michael Harding said.

“We are behind. Rice has an app. UT has an app.”

The app will include features such as Google Maps, which will allow users to take a photo of a building and have the program tell them the name of that building, the administrators in it and how to get to other places on campus from that location; a parking alert system would inform students of which parking lots have spaces available; students would receive push notifications from sports games; updates from campus police; and various other school resources.

Harris said SGA plans to talk to other student organizations like Coog Radio, The Daily Cougar and the Student Program Board to see how they can also benefit from the app.

The first version of the app is planned to be ready for student use in the spring, according to Turner Harris, SGA’s director of finance.

Harris said the price of the app is middle of the road compared to some of the developers they looked into.

“We’ve had to turn down some developers because they were outrageously priced,” Harris said. “Apps can go from a couple hundred dollars to half a million.We don’t have those kinds of funds.”

He said they’re trying to get quotes from as many developers as they can before they make a decision.

The SGA originally asked SFAC for an increase in its base budget of $10,750 to maintain and add features to the app, but it was denied.

SFAC turned down their request because they wanted the app to be controlled by University Relations after its development, according to SFAC Chair John Evans. University Relations does not receive funds from student fees.

Evans added that the money that is left over from developing the app should be given back to SFAC.

Harding said the app is essential for UH to keep up with its rival schools.

Students without a smartphone will still be able to use some of the features.

“They will still be able to use the web-based app,” Harding said. “Some of the functionalities, like Google Maps, can’t be used.”

The main difference, according to Harris, is that students without smartphones will not be able to use any of the features that require GPS.

“We want it (the app) to be a tool that students use everyday — a necessity,” Harris said.

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      • there is iphone class offered by Dr. Pavlidis called Ubiquitiuos Computing. They developed already similar type of application. Why they are looking for developers, students can do it as a class project for 3-4 months

        • I'm not necessarily taking sides, but one obvious reason is because it will almost certainly look like garbage. Have you ever gotten something 100% right on the first try? Being confident and being able to execute are two completely different things — unfortunately.

          • If you give students enough support , I believe they would definitely come up with something work as well company could do, why you dont believe students cannot able to do it. Why we dont support our students and our class, giving such amount of money to companys..

            • Alright, and while we're at it, why don't we let the Civil Engineering students build the new football stadium? Or let the Architecture students design it?

              • Difference being necessity and luxury. We need good buildings built by certified engineers. People could die if a building isn't made right. What happens if an app isn't made right? Someone has to, I don't know, use their own problem-solving skills instead to find a way to class?

                Pay $10K to a consultant to help the students build an app that's up to par in security and design. Or make this app $3 or $4 instead of making every student essentially pay $1-2 in fees even though who knows how many actually own a iPhone and will use this.

                Hope the Daily Cougar stays on top of this!

                • We're (hopefully) not making an app just to say "we made an app" — ideally it's something people will use. Get somebody who actually knows how to make an app to make the app. If an app isn't made right it's a waste of money, and the app store is full of free apps that nobody wants.

  • I concur with Rah, there could be some overlooked talent on campus that the University could reach out to. Either in programing or interface concepts because if we paid an exuberant amount of money for the current UH app. We paid too much.

  • The first UH app was created by students but has a lot of problems, glitches, and literally hasn't been updated in years. I think that its a good idea that SGA goes with a company that specializes in university apps and i'm sure this will benefit the whole university.

    • Sorry Jack, after we buy this overpriced POS app it also will have lots of problems, glitches, and literally won't be updated EVER because SFAC wasn't willing to pay for maintenance. As the article says, "SFAC… wanted the app to be controlled by University Relations after its development…"

      Strangely, "University Relations does not receive funds from student fees," so why the hell is the SFAC taking our student fees to pay for something that University Relations is going to own?

      • And there's also the mobile website that just launched,, which essentially has everything they're talking about…

      • the new mobile app will be free, and we are getting quotes from some of the best design/development firms in the world (so it won't be a POS)

  • Because I have actually asked President Harding about the app and did not rely on just the Daily Cougar as a recourse I know that University Relation WILL pay for the maintenance of the app after this administration leaves. Also the web based app will be completely different than the mobile based app. Some of the feature of the mobile app include Google maps that uses your location to help you navigate the campus, Monicle which allows you to use your camera to identify buildings, a push notification feature that lets you know the scores of games and information regarding events directly to your phone, live twitter feed that will allow you to see the tweets from various UH organization, and other features that use GPS system on your phone. University Relations will not "own" the app. The app has all of the feature that students want to see based off an SGA survey where students where asked what functionalities they would like to see on the app. The web based app is coming directly from UH administration with no student input. SGA will also be using an app developer that specializes in creating apps for universities.

    I think this is a great idea and will be money well spent (considering most universities have a mobile app). The has a small percentage of the feature that SGA's mobile app will have.

    I think eye brows should be raised at SPB who received a one time allocation of over 250,000 dollars to get a big screen and to increase there programming even though they already receive more than any other student organization.

  • Well then Jack, please tell us who is creating this app for the greater UH community so that we can all be awed by the incredible promise of our beautiful future app. Otherwise quit it with the public puff pieces towards the SGA president and this promise filled (but currently undeveloped) app. And drop the nasty swipes at other student organizations. Your posts clearly show that unlike your brothers George and Jeb, your political career will end at the minor leagues of student government.

    • Hey Josh, allow me to clarify

      SGA will be receiving quotes for the next several months from app development companies. 2 companies I am particularly excited about are Bottle Rocket Apps ( and Pentagram ( Both of these companies have offices in Texas and their clients include ESPN, National Geographic, NPR, BMW, TNT, Sony, Bravo, just to name a few.

      This app will serve as a platform to solve some of our biggest issues on campus like safety, parking, and consolidation of our student portals…

      Hope that helps and feel free to email me at [email protected] if you have any more questions!

  • Sadly, there are students who are welling to work and produce this app for FREE! Just check the link:

    Navigate through the screenshots and see the features of this app.
    This version was produced on December 2010; but it was never published. Basically, the app was suppose to be published as version 1, but the professor never published it. So, there is no encouragement to publish such app by students.
    Also, it maybe interesting if this money went to help fund the Department of Computer Science in creating this app!

    • Yeah, this is the class that made the UHGuide app. Not the best app, but unfortunately the prof never turned it over to the university (or anyone else) to maintain, so it never got updated or maintained… I'm sure that's what will happen here too.

  • This is silly.

    Last I checked, having an iPhone app wasn't one of the Carnegie criteria for achieving Tier One status. You know what really is Tier One? Having high graduation rates. You know, like Rice and UT have. How about we spend $60,000 on something that helps make that happen, not on an app that helps college students find their way around campus. If you can't figure out how to navigate the campus, you probably shouldn't be in college. Give me a break.

    This is us trying to imitate better schools rather than simply trying to BE a good school. Shame on SGA and SFAC for approving this ridiculous project.

    • Walt, lots of people are speaking on behalf of SGA about this app that really don't know what there talking about so I just wanted to clarify a few things.

      This app will serve as the platform to solve some of our biggest problems on campus (safety, parking, consolidation of student portals, etc). We are actively seeking quotes from design firms and have already been in contact with some of the best design/development firms in the world – for a good idea on what kind of companies I'm talking about you can check out and (their clients include NPR, National Geographic, ESPN, BMW.

      The app will have a clear and immediate impact for students and all other UH stakeholders.

      Hope that helps! if you have any other questions you can email me at [email protected]

  • Sadly, there are students who are willing to work and produce this app for FREE! Just check the link:

    ***Navigate through the screenshots and see the features of this app.

    This version was produced on December 2010; but it was never published. Basically, the app was supposed to be published as version 1, but the professor never published it. So, there is no encouragement to publish such app by students.
    Also, it may be interesting if this money went to help fund the Department of Computer Science in creating this app!

  • I really must agree with Walt. If you're attending a major university and can't read a paper map (provided at start of every semester), one of the numerous directory map sites across campus, or even take the initiative to look at the plethora of detailed maps on the uh website, then you should not ruin the worth of my degree with your stupidity. However, having those sort of people on campus boosts my GPA. It's a love/hate relationship.

  • A student at Morehouse College developed an app for both his school and and another free of charge with these features and more. Total waste of money by UH SGA

  • Ahhh so now they're impersonating me and giving me -1's because I offended their little egos by daring to suggest that comp sci students (at UH) might not be able to make an app as good as someone who does it for a living. See, this is what we're up against. Stay down, we like you better that way 🙂

  • If you have a smartphone, you are certainly likely to have a laptop or just access the library's computer labs to get information. You can find the name of the building by looking at the facade or entrance name plates, or even at the many maps around campus. Get directions by using your head a bit; it's not like the campus is super confusing to walk through outside the construction-heavy area around MD library. A parking alert system while students are driving doesn't seem like a good idea. Again, all other news bits can be found online.

    People have gotten along fine without an app. A mobile based website fits most needs, and the whole GPS thing is overkill. This is a lot of money that could be spent elsewhere, and I don't see what the rush is to find high-profile developers without checking into the talent pool around UH. I've never heard of anyone complaining about the lack of a UH app, many people don't own smartphones on campus as you think, and it's dumb to spend so much money without running through this a bit better.

  • “We are behind. Rice has an app. UT has an app.”

    Rice's app appears to have been developed in-house by their IT department and web services. UT's official app apparently sucks when compared to another app created by a couple of UT alumni. If UH is a Tier 1 school, why don't we look to the Tier 1 talent that the university fosters and employs?

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