WHHS students design, publish cell phone app
WHHS students design, publish cell phone app
Posted on 11/03/2015
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WEST HAVEN, Nov. 3, 2015 —Ever wish you knew how quickly you could tap your smart phone screen in just a few seconds? No? Just in case the urge ever arises, or you need a boredom buster, there’s an app for that. And it’s completely created, designed and managed by a pair of West Haven High School students.

While the “TapTapMe” smart phone and computer tablet game may seem simplistic in today’s high-tech world, the app represents a major milestone for WHHS and a significant victory for Brett Gradoia and Riyad Al-Bakri, the students who made it. That’s because this is the first app, or cell phone program, from the school’s Mobile App Game Design class to make it into the digital “stores” for Android and Apple cell phones. Now, anyone in any location with a smart phone or computer tablet can download and play the game.

“We’ve been working since April to get it into the Apple app store,” teacher Deborah MacNeil said, explaining that “TapTapMe” just got approved for the Apple store a few weeks ago. “Apple would reject it and want changes made to the graphics and the code. Then we’d resubmit it, and they’d give us more changes to make. Finally, it was approved. It got accepted to the Android store right away.”

The project started last year when Gradoia, then a WHHS freshman, came up with the idea for the game and began designing it in MacNeil’s class, which was new to the WHHS course offerings in the 2014-15 academic year. That meant finding ways for it to have music and sound effects, creating its timer, programming it to save a user’s high score, and developing its graphics.

The free game challenges users to tap a button on their phone screens as many times as possible in only a few seconds and beat the high score.

“When I was choosing my classes, I just thought this sounded cool. I didn’t know how to do games, but it came easy to me,” said Gradoia, who is considering film production for a career and had earlier experience in advanced technology by using his computer to make movies. “I had to do a lot of research and testing for the app.”

He and MacNeil then submitted the finished product to the Android and Apple app stores last spring, not knowing how challenging the process is to get a new app approved by Apple. As they began changing the app’s code during the approval process, MacNeil met Al-Bakri at a WHHS Open House event, which Al-Bakri was attending as a Bailey Middle School eighth-grader.

MacNeil and Al-Bakri started talking about the WHHS Mobile App Game Design class, and Al-Bakri said he already knew coding for mobile apps and could help get the “TapTapMe” program approved. He worked with MacNeil and Gradoia last year and continued this year when he entered WHHS as a freshman.

“Riyad came as an eighth-grader to play with the code we were using and set the game up on a simulator to try and see what the Apple app store was seeing. Riyad and Brett are just both super high-level and motivated. There’s nothing either one can’t do. They’re both very accomplished, and they’re not just coders or IT (information technology) people,” MacNeil said.

Al-Bakri had already taught himself programming code using free resources online and also learned about it at a workshop at Yale University. He’s hoping to eventually have a career in software development.

“I just like coding. It’s fun to see the outcome of what I’ve learned,” said Al-Bakri, who plays alto saxophone in the WHHS band, is in WHHS robotics and physics clubs, and plays soccer on a local team. He is also taking advanced placement (college-level) biology as a freshman at WHHS.

Gradoia, who is also on the WHHS baseball team, and Al-Bakri are continuing to tweak and enhance the game and monitor the number of people downloading it to their mobile devices. So far, a few hundred have installed it.

Though the process to publish the game to app stores was lengthy, MacNeil said she hopes to assist more of her students in publishing their ideas this year.

“We’re thinking of how to make the apps bigger and better and are working on a marketing plan too,” she added.



Contact: Communications Director Susan Misur, 203-937-4300 X7114; susan.misur@whschools.org