There’s an app for that

UW-Eau Claire students and faculty in process of creating an educational app for students with disabilities


Photo by Anna Mateffy-The Spectator

from left to right: Steven, Derek and Drew. – Photo by Anna Mateffy

Story by Katy Macek, Currents Editor

Students in the special education department at UW-Eau Claire may have a new application to use in the classrooms as early as next fall semester, art and graphic design professor Sooyun Im said about the app she and several students are working on.

           “There are no kind of tools for students with disabilities, so we wanted to create the actual app so we can use this in the classroom,” Im said.

           She said the app, “Dine Right”, which focuses on social skills in a restaurant setting, is an effective teaching tool because it incorporates multimedia into the learning process as opposed to just words on paper.

           The app is targeted for students with mental disabilities, focusing specifically on those with an IQ of 80 or below, she said.

           Im said she and Minkowan Goo, assistant professor in the special education department, came up with an idea earlier this year to introduce a new app for students with disabilities that focuses on social skills, specifically in a restaurant setting.

           She contacted students she thought would be interested in creating this app earlier this year and began working on the project this summer. The three students who have been collaborating on the project are Steven Scherz, Drew Hagen and Derek Hestekin.

           Scherz, a senior graphic design major, said he was interested in helping because he knew it would be a good learning experience.

           “I had to independently learn a new coding language to do this project,” he said, noting this was his first exposure to this kind of coding. “I have always been interested in making apps but had no real reason to pursue it until this project.”

           Scherz said he believes their app is different from similar apps out there because of the design. While others are simple instructions, theirs uses interactive multimedia to offer more help to users.

           When finished, he said he hopes the application will go on the app store free to all users, and also said Goo hopes to use it to collect data on how students with disabilities learn.

Drew Hagen, a senior photography major, said he was interested in developing the app because, in addition to allowing him to put his education into practice before graduating in December, he wanted to use those skills to benefit others.

           “I just really wasn’t impressed with the depth of the apps that I could find,” he said. “I thought it would be an important thing I would do to help others.”

           What makes this project different from others is that, aside from the help of Im and Goo, the project is entirely student driven, and Hagen said all video and images are filmed in student locations with student talent.

           In developing “Dine Right,” Hagen said they broke the app down into two sections, fast-food and dine-in restaurants. Each section shows a few 30 second videos, asking a series of questions after each. If the user answers the question correctly, they can move on.

           “Maybe it’s ordering, and the viewer would hit the button and it would play a video where two people are sitting at a table, looking at a menu, and then they interact with the server,” he said.

           In addition to helping others, Hagen said the project also serves as experience for him and the two other students involved in app’s creation.

           “I had a video class and all of that,” he said. “But there’s still something about having this hands-on experience where you shoot the video or the photographs and then shape it into something that, say, the client would want.”