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GBHS tech students launch iPhone app

Students can use to check grades, view campus map, watch school bulletins and more
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Vincent Cataldo calls the map view his favorite feature on the iPhone application he and two other students created.

This feature would have come in handy for the junior when he transferred to Granite Bay High School in 2008.

“I moved here from New York and my school was one building with two floors,” Cataldo said. “Then I came to this school and my head exploded. I got a little lost.”

He hopes the map feature will prevent incoming freshmen from experiencing the same fate.

“That’s one of the great things about us getting it done before the end of the school year,” said freshman Nick Krisa, as he and his peers sat in the Granite Bay Information Technology, or GBiT, class.

Cataldo, Krisa and freshman Anthony Berry launched the GBHS iPhone application March 16, and it’s had 385 downloads as of press time. The application can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes store.

With the application, students can access their grades, keep updated on sports, read campus news, browse the school calendar, watch video bulletins and, of course, view the map.

“It’s geared toward everyone at school finding some use,” Cataldo said.

While this application is intended for students, its programmers have already received feedback that teachers would like one, too.

The project cumulates almost a semester’s worth of work by the students, who spent a portion of every class period since January working on the application.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if the school could have an app and let students use it,” Cataldo said. “I saw a lot of colleges were doing it.”

He and Berry — a self-taught computer programmer — already knew Objective-C, which is a coding language used to write applications. Cataldo learned coding from a Stanford professor who tutors him on the weekends when the teenager visits his dad in San Jose.

Krisa is the team’s self-taught Photoshop expert so he focused on images and the application’s look. The GBHS application has icons set on wallpaper, reminiscent of an iPhone’s design.

“We wanted to apply a familiar interface people would know,” Cataldo said.

Granite Bay High School launched a new website in March, which complements the application.

“It’s not just our class who can contribute, but the newspaper and yearbook (staff),” said GBiT teacher Zachary Weidkamp. “When you log in to the school website, it uploads to the web and app at the same time, so other group members can add their own content.”

His school is the first in the area to have an application like this, he said, and one built solely by students.

“We went out and found the information,” Berry said. “We did this mostly on our own.”

Their teacher doesn’t have any iPhone programming experience, which left the students responsible for building the application from start to finish.

“These students have taught themselves and they’re teaching me in essence,” Weidkamp said. “They’re figuring out how to problem solve and get the information. I’m very proud of them for being able to do that.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.