GV students work with Grand Rapids to launch app

Photo taken in down town Grand Rapids on Nov. 10

Kasey Garvelink

Photo taken in down town Grand Rapids on Nov. 10

Maddie Forshee

A group of Grand Valley State University computing and information systems students have recently launched an app they developed as a capstone project. The group, self-titled Advanced Solutions, teamed up with the city of Grand Rapids to develop the app.

Last year, Mayor George Heartwell worked with President Thomas Haas and a class of GVSU students to explore the ways that Grand Rapids can attract and retain recent college graduates and young talent to revitalize the city. The class produced ten recommendations for the city, and among them was an app called Why GR (YGR).

One of the recommendations that Heartwell implemented immediately was the Millennial Advisory Board, a group of young professionals from organizations and universities around Grand Rapids that work with the city to make it attractive to young people.

The board helped to look over the recommendations, and suggested that the city go through with the development of YGR.

The city once again approached GVSU students to help develop the app last semester as part of a capstone project in professor David Lange’s class.

“We all thought that designing a mobile application would be fun,” said Brent Bouwkamp, one of the students on the project. “We had not had any previous experience with mobile apps.”

The students had three weeks to brainstorm ideas and work with the city and about eight weeks to develop the app before it launched during finals week in December.

“My favorite part was finding strengths within our group and presenting the final version of the app,” Bouwkamp said. “Everyone was happy for our success with the creation of the YGR app.”

Tom Almonte, assistant to the city manager, helped oversee the project on the city’s side.

“It was very impressive to see the class of students from GVSU actually take the concept and actually produce an app in a short period of time,” he said.

The app features six explorable areas of interest: entertainment, community, jobs, living, networking and government.

The entertainment section includes everything from concert halls to movie theaters to all things Beer City, while community promotes volunteer opportunities. The job and living sections offer helpful resources for newcomers of Grand Rapids, and the networking section is there to connect users with everything from professional organizations and events to sports leagues. The government section offers up-to-the-date news about what’s going on in the city.

There’s also a section where users can leave comments about the app, so in the future, new students of the capstone class will be able to take that feedback into consideration while developing a new version of the app.

“One beauty of the way we designed it is that the app will get upgraded every year,” Almonte said. “(Students will) take the current state of the app and every year we’ll release an updated version of the app.”

YGR is currently available for both Android via the Android Play store and iOS via the Apple store. For more information, visit www.grcity.us.