Students build iPhone apps

July 23, 2009

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By Terry Lavender

Correction Appended

Behind the unassuming name of CMPT 275 Software Engineer I is one of Canada’s only university courses devoted to developing applications for the wildly popular iPhone and iPod Touch. The second-year computing science course, launched this semester, is taught by Herbert Tsang, who is also a research associate with the Modelling of Complex Social Systems program at SFU’s Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences Centre. The idea for the course came to him as he was exploring his new iPod Touch, which is similar to the iPhone, but without the mobile phone component.

Computing science courses typically have students designing trivial programs, but Tsang thought it would be fun to develop real applications. "Students get first-hand experience of the software engineering cycle from idea to design specification, implementation, testing, and finally putting the application product out in the market," he says.

That’s because Apple’s iPhone Developer University Program lets students submit their new applications to Apple’s online application store.

Since Apple started allowing third-party applications for the iPhone and Touch last year, more than 15,000 applications—games, social media, location tools, personal productivity apps, even musical instruments—have been created by developers ranging from individuals to large corporations. Apple says its applications store has seen more than one billion downloads, creating instant millionaires out of some of the application developers, who get 70 percent of the proceeds.

Students don’t necessarily need to have a background in Objective C, the programming language used to design the iPhone applications, Tsang says, but knowledge of other programming languages such as C++ or Python would be helpful. An iPhone isn’t a requirement either, since students use a software development kit that includes a simulator on which their applications can be tested.

The course fits well with the new Professional Software Systems major offered at the Surrey campus, Tsang says. "The iPhone course can get students excited about the software-systems program, which is more hands-on and practical. It trains students in programming, project management, problem solving and teamwork—skills that employers are looking for in new employees."

CMPT 275 Software Engineer I will be offered again in the fall semester.

Correction: July 23, 2009
The original print version mistakenly said that the Software Engineer I will be offered again in the fall semester when it should have that CMPT 275 Software Engineer I would be offered again in the fall semester.


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James MacLeod`

Why is a university supporting the teaching of software development on a proprietary platform when there are open source alternatives?

Jesse James

As mentioned in previous post. Why University has a Software Course course for iPhone / iPod Touch? On popularity level Objective C is far behind in programming languages list.

iPhone Course is a bad idea.

Herbert H. Tsang

CMPT 275 is an introductory class to software engineering, in which we taught techniques used for both software development process and software project management. The course centers on a team-based software development project, and in this case the student are developing an application for the iPhone. Therefore, the class focus and objective is not about teaching a specific programming language or specific platform, although in this case, students also learned a lot from this specific language and platform as well.

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