BHSU students design apps, interactive websites in mass communication class

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, December 9, 2014/Categories: 2014

Black Hills State University student Brock Thomas, mass communication major from Rapid City, shows off his application StoryTeller that he created and designed for his interactive multimedia design course at BHSU. The app is currently under review by Apple and should be available for download soon.

Black Hills State University student Brock Thomas will have his first app available for download very soon.

Thomas, a mass communication major from Rapid City, designed and created an application for smartphones called StoryTeller in Dr. Mary Caton-Rosser's interactive multimedia design course. The application allows friends to interact, creatively, writing a unique story. Users send story segments to one another, filling in the blank spaces in each segment. The final product, or story, is always unique and often entertaining.  

Caton-Rosser, associate professor of mass communication at BHSU, had students develop electronic prototypes for smartphone applications, interactive e-books and websites, and games. Several of the students have completed their prototypes and marketed them to the public.

Thomas said he brainstormed ideas that would allow friends to interact, is fun and would gain a large number of followers, quickly. He went through the process of creating a storyboard, hiring a programmer and becoming an Apple developer to get his product into the marketplace. The project pushed him to explore new boundaries, he said, and already he has a list of new app ideas.

"It's cool to see I am capable of coming up with an idea and creating it into a finished product," Thomas said. "You can come up with as many ideas as you want, but if it's not a finished product, you don't have anything. It's still just an idea."

Colton Nickelson, mass communication major from Philip, designed an interactive game. Through the use of 3D software, he created an animation of the classic game where a ball is placed under one of three cups and shuffled. Viewers have to determine which cup the ball is under.

Nickelson, who is currently interning with the Rapid City Rush, incorporated the hockey team's logo and the ice arena into the game. He said he hopes to have the game broadcast during intermission of a Rush game this season.

Most of the students had little to no knowledge of website creation, coding and building images. It took time, research and a lot of patience to learn the new skills.

"Students started out with such grandiose ideas," Caton-Rosser said. "But they had to develop the knowledge to create this idea and sometimes that meant changing how everything was done along the way."

Caton-Rosser said several students worked with programmers and software experts to develop their prototypes. Thomas hired a programmer from Vietnam to help with his application. Sean Sutton, mass communication major from Sioux Falls, is working with Rapid City and San Diego, Calif., developers to promote his application, WorshAp.

"It's a new kind of church," Sutton said. "There is not enough connection with young people and I'm hoping we can change the way we see church and not keep it one directional."

Sutton, who works at the Spearfish United Methodist Church, developed WorshAp to provide an opportunity for congregations to respond and react to sermons and religious readings during church services.

"I've gained a lot of insight on what I'm capable of doing," Sutton said. "I have this big dream and if I'm willing to put in the work, it can become a reality."
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