When computer science professional master’s program students Fang Liu, Tong Zhou, Chengjiu Zhang and Chunxiao Zhang were told the department was holding a poster competition geared to connecting the program’s participants to industry employers, they used the opportunity to build what they are looking to be a business.
Their app, Tuder’s tagline is, “Everyone can be a learner, everyone can be a teacher,” and it was created to connect those looking to learn how to do something with those who already have the skill.
“Fang had been reading articles about the sharing economy,” said Zhou, “and we wanted the app to be like Uber and Airbnb.”
The app, now in its prototype phase uses the same geographic locaters that the ride-sharing and accommodations-finding apps use. Users can type in the knowledge they’re looking to acquire, whether it’s cooking or learning a new language, and the app will show them who around them is available to either jump on Skype at that moment to help out, or who is willing to set up some one-on-one time to teach them.
“One of the pieces of feedback we got from the poster session was that we needed to look at issues of safety, and of scheduling,” said Zhang. “We now have to devise a way to be sure people on the site are trustworthy, and build in a mechanism so that if someone is currently helping someone with something, that person isn’t shown as ‘available’ for someone else.”
The group’s members, all from China, worked on the app outside of their regular professional master’s coursework. The poster was really just the first step; the competition was announced at the start of the academic year and they only had about a month to develop the business model.
“The Department of Computer Science and the Computer Science GSA put together the poster competition to allow professional master’s students a way to connect with industry,” said Carlyn Chatfield, the department’s web editor and publicist. The poster competition was a chance for them to work in teams, develop proposals, learn and talk on the fly, and showcase their expertise.”
Zhang says the team began their app project just before the poster session. Once they came up with the idea, they had to determine the architecture. Since Tuder’s backend is serviced by mobile phone traffic and location, clients talk to the backend over mobile data and the best available Internet. Those looking for tutors are connected with a dispatch system that searches and locates available personnel. The team used Python and Java to create the dispatch system and MongoDB for the database of tutors.
“We plan to continue developing the app and want to find backers for it,” said Zhang. “All of us want to get jobs in the U.S. and doing this app, as well as getting a professional master’s degree, helps us see what companies expect and learn how to meet those standards.”
“I didn’t want a Ph.D.,” said Zhou. “But I do want to work in industry. This experience has been great for giving me more experience I can use in a job.”