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Student Brings Mobile App Development to the Farm
December 16, 2011
What comes to mind when thinking of smartphone applications? Social media, mobile banking, games, GPS navigation.
Capitol student Steven Strasburg isn’t a farmer, but he does raise chickens. And with the Android smartphone application he’s developing he may be onto something that could make farming much more digital.
“The first objectives are to have it auto water, auto feed and monitor [the coop] with a webcam through the phone,” Strasburg said. “I can essentially control all the feeding through the phone so I can do everything remotely.”
Strasburg received his first group of chickens when a friend moved out of town and could no longer care for the birds. After quickly learning how to care for them, he found himself enjoying the work as well as the farm fresh eggs. Unfortunately, a family of foxes made their way into Strasburg’s yard one night and wiped out his chicken population.
“After I had invested a lot of time - I read up a lot about [taking care of chickens] - I started understanding the name of the game, and we were enjoying all the eggs we got from them,” Strasburg said. “Then after that they were all killed, I thought to myself, ‘jeez what are we going to do?’”
The next step was ordering more chicks.
“It was pretty funny at the post office,” Strasburg said. “I don’t think they’d ever gotten chicks in the mail before.”
So after constructing a new coop, Strasburg started thinking of ways to protect his fowl. The idea came to him to remotely watch and care for his chickens, and he settled upon designing an app.
“Everyone knows there is an app for almost anything,” Strasburg said. “People are developing these apps for their individual businesses and I think it’s a really good skill to have.”
There was only one small problem. Strasburg had almost no experience designing smartphone applications. Fortunately, Dr. Charles Conner teaches a class at Capitol on the subject. And although Strasburg is not enrolled in the class, he was able to get some tips from Conner before doing the necessary research.
Now that the concept and initial programming is behind him, Strasburg plans to unveil the technology by the end of the year. Until then he has trained his American Bulldog, Wyatt, to look after the chickens when he’s not around. An automated door opener to allow the dog out of the house may be another feature of the mobile app.
After Strasburg starts to employ his new creation, he’d like to share his project with others who can benefit from the new technology.
“Later on, I’m hoping to be able take [the app] and build chicken coops and then rent them out to people on the Eastern Shore,” Strasburg said. “Hopefully I can automate it enough so I’d only have to go out there once every other week. I think that would be a fun endeavor to rent out chicken coops over there.”
Until the day the project is completely finished however, Strasburg will keep learning how to develop mobile applications and take care of chickens on the fly.
“It’s been a heck of a learning experience with a few debacles along the way,” Strasburg said. “That’s honestly how you learn. You jump in neck deep and tread your way out.”
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