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2011 News Releases

Longwood computer science students to engage in smartphone app development, thanks to partnership program

September 2, 2011

Longwood professor Dr. Robert Marmorstein and sophomore Cory Creason check out the Torch smartphone that, through a partnership program, will be used in a computer science course.
Longwood professor Dr. Robert Marmorstein and sophomore Cory Creason check out the Torch smartphone that, through a partnership program, will be used in a computer science course.

Students in Longwood University's computer science program are expected to benefit from a partnership program that engages them in smartphone app development.

In the BlackBerry Academic Program by Research in Motion (RIM), the computer science program has received 10 Torch smartphones from RIM, maker of BlackBerry phones, for use in classes and labs. The phones will be incorporated into the Advanced Java Programming class that will be taught in fall 2012 by Dr. Robert Marmorstein, assistant professor of computer science. They also can be used in other course modules, said Marmorstein, who initiated and is coordinating Longwood's participation in the program.

"As development of phone apps is one of the fastest growing areas in software engineering, experience developing apps will give Longwood graduates a major advantage in the job market," Marmorstein said. "The BlackBerry Academic Program also provides students with BlackBerry training resources, preparation for the BlackBerry Certified Developer program, and easier access to internship and career opportunities at RIM.

"App development is where the industry is going, and it is where we want to go. We want to give students relevant, up-to-date skills, not skills of the past. Smartphone development is creating a huge number of jobs in the computing industry."

How the program works will vary at each school, Marmorstein said. "Research in Motion provides hardware for professors to use in the classroom, and it's up to the professor what they do with it. It will look different at Longwood than at other schools. One school is controlling robots through the BlackBerry."

"We will lend students the BlackBerry for the duration of the course. As the course progresses, they will be able to develop more and more sophisticated programs with the phone. By the end of the semester, they should be able to do some neat things. Hopefully, they will be able to write code that takes advantage of the capabilities provided by the software on the phone. BlackBerry is reputed to have the best 'personal information management' software, which includes software for managing a calendar and addressbook, on a smartphone. The phones also have a camera, which should allow us to do some fun stuff, and they come with headphones, a charger, a battery, and other accessories. They are a thing of beauty. The Torch is the latest and the greatest smartphone made by Research in Motion."

The 10 phones are in Marmorstein's office, each in a compact box. Did he already have a Torch smartphone? "No, this is new to me too," he said. "I need to prepare a curriculum and decide how to use this in class. I will orient the class toward developing BlackBerry apps. After I teach the course next fall, I'll see how it goes and decide what to do in the future."

The BlackBerry Academic Program is designed to provide colleges and universities with a "curriculum and course content to offer courses in administering and supporting the BlackBerry solution and developing for the BlackBerry platform," RIM said in announcing the program in November 2009. "Through the BlackBerrry Academic Program, professors around the world are teaching foundational concepts related to computing and mobility, such as networking, efficient use of battery life and spectrum, programming in Java and web technologies," says the RIM website devoted to the program. "Our resources ensure that the next generation of computer science and engineering graduates are mobile-savvy because of the strong demand for professionals with such technical skills."

Marmorstein learned of the program from Christine Burns, academic liaison for RIM, whom he met at a conference in Germany this past summer. "BlackBerry has had a more difficult time attracting developers than the iPhone or Android, because of differences in licensing agreements, which is one reason BlackBerry is so eager to attract student developers," he said.

Marmorstein has been showing the phones to students. "Most of them are either excited or disappointed - excited before they will be able to use the phones in my Java class, or disappointed because they have already taken the Java class and won't get to use the phones," he said.