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Now that it has taken off, a class of University of Wisconsin Oshkosh software engineering students hope a new app they developed to help pilots track their airport stops keeps ascending.

Last semester, a group of students in Michael Rogers class worked on an application—FWAPPA!, short for Fly Wisconsin Airport Passport Program App!—as part of a class project. The app helps pilots track Wisconsin airports they have flown to.

Alex Ceithamer

“Working on an app that will have real users was definitely a big change from the usual labs and projects I’ve completed in my classes,” senior Alex Ceithamer said. “It gave more purpose to what I was helping to create, and I found myself much more attentive to details.”

Students in Rogers’ CS341 class worked in teams and gained experience using the programming tool GitHub. Students would write code, submit it to Rogers and he would either accept the submission or send it back for refinement.

FWAPPA! is linked to a database containing all of the Wisconsin airports and their latitude/longitude coordinates. The app is able to plot points on the map page of the app along with the page creating routes between airports. The airports are identified by their IATA code which also is used to pull weather information from an API for the weather page of the app.

To track visited airports, pilots enter the airport from the “visited airports” page where they can give it a rating.

The primary purpose of the app is to provide a digital way to keep track of airports for the Fly Wisconsin Airport Passport Program—Rogers was seeking an electronic version of a paper passport.

Students were placed into teams and assigned screens that Rogers sketched out. Next, they had to design various databases and the week after, had to connect the databases to the screens. Rogers rotated team responsibilities and students had a real-world experience working with code they had not written.

Michael Rogers explains concepts in a computer science class.

“I used a software tool that encouraged collaboration,” he said. “The students would submit their requests to add their code to the project and if it passed muster, I would allow it. I had final responsibility for adding their code to the project.

This is an absolutely fundamental tool/skillset that students need in industry, and so this gave them some exposure to it.”

The app wasn’t completed last semester, so Ceithamer and Rogers picked up the project over winter break and finished it earlier this year.

Rogers published the app on the Apple App Store, while Ceithamer published it to the Google Play Store, where he is aware of the app being installed on about a dozen devices in the first few weeks it was available.

The students learned several skills including working with APIs (Application Programming Interface), remote database management, password/account security and encryption.

Workforce experience

Ceithamer said it was the first time he created a Graphical User Interface (GUI) and he learned many new programming concepts as well as learning how to use Git for version control, creating pull requests and tracking issues that were found.

The UWO junior said he’ll be starting a co-op program this summer as a systems/software engineer.

A Cottage Grove native, he completed an associate degree program in humanities before coming to Oshkosh in 2021 to work on a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He is on track to graduate in December.

Though he has yet to determine where he’ll start his career following graduation, Ceithamer looks forward to creating something useful for others while expanding his knowledge and skills.

“This (app) project definitely gave me my first look at the software development timeline which I’m sure will be very helpful in the future,” he said.

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