Continuing the App

August 24, 2015

It has been quite the summer. It is difficult for me to believe that it is almost time to begin another semester, yet alone the first semester of senior year. I have helped my younger sister move to college and my parents have transitioned to new jobs. It has been difficult balancing family, friends, and work, but somehow it was manageable. It has been a summer of transition and adjustment, but it has all been for the best. Progress on the wheelchair user fitness application has not happened as I planned. Unfortunately, Professor Laskin (the Physical Therapy professor for whom my partner and I are making the app) has been preoccupied with other obligations that took precedence, so our communication with him has been minimal. I have corresponded with him recently, and we will plan to take up the project again when the semester begins and will discuss a new progress plan.

If anything, this project has taught me about the importance of flexibility and reinforced independent learning. Even though I thought I knew exactly how it would work out, I had to accept the fact that external situations do take precedence sometimes. Even though I did not accomplish what I had “hoped”, we were able to do almost an entire layout of the app with almost all of the screens. There is baseline functionality to navigate through the screens and interact with the controls, like the text inputs and buttons. This project has reminded me a great deal of my highschool experience because I was homeschooled during highschool. I have had to acquire resources for myself and teach myself how to create this app in the Android programming environment. Fortunately, I had a solid programming base in multiple languages which helped, but the learning curve was still steep. Every little thing I learned how to do was a tremendous victory. I spent days trying to get a “spinner control” also known as a drop down list to work. That right there was a huge accomplishment. Also, you cannot approximate color; you must enter specific RBG color values to make sure it is consistent on different devices. Just a word to the wise, what looks like deep burgundy on one device, looks like a brownish-pink on another. Those colors are totally not the same….save yourself time and enter specific values, do not pick random colors on the color wheel.

This coming fall semester, I plan to continue to modify it aesthetically, continue working on the fitness calculator, and create the integrated database within the app. I am excited to continue working on this project with the goal of having the first generation app ready to download in spring of 2016. Hopefully, we will be able to present it at the UM Undergraduate Research Day and at the American College of Sports Medicine Research Conference in Tacoma next year. I am looking forward to beginning a new semester, and I am motivated to finish building this app.

Lisa H. Morgan

Balancing Coding with Summer

Going into this project of building the Android Physical Therapy fitness app, I did not know how difficult it would be to balance an independently driven project with the hectic nature of summer. The progress has undeniably been slow but yet steady. Not only am I learning about Android programming, but I am learning more about myself. Previously, I have struggled with working on coding projects and assignments in a structured and sensible way. I struggle with procrastination and then as the deadline approached, I would finally feel the surge of motivation. At that time, I can be extremely productive in a short amount of time. Previously, working on coding in a compressed fashion, helped me generate the most cohesive program.

Making this app has made it clear to me that that is not the best way to complete a project in a job setting. With this research/internship, I have had to set my own deadlines and goals throughout the summer. At first my sights were too high and I had to moderate my expectations of myself. In a very real sense, I am learning as I progress throughout the project. Working as a programmer is incredibly different from doing programming assignments. Several days a week, I set aside time to work on the app throughout the day. I have had to allot time and give equal share to research, learning through informative videos and reading, and correspondence with the client in addition to actually coding the app. I still have so much to learn about the Android programming environment, and every time I use it, I learn new shortcuts and ways to improve style and accessibility. There has been a much steeper learning curve than I anticipated, and I am incredibly grateful for my Java programming background and experience with XML.

I am pleased with the current progress on the app. Even though I have to learn how to implement new aspects or to use computer jargon-“methods and controls”, you only have to learn how to do it once and then can reuse that knowledge over and over again. Hopefully, as the semester begins, I will be able to meet with the Physical Therapy professor who is the client more regularly. The summer has been a difficult time for coordinated communication, but I am sure that will be remedied in September. I believe we are on track for the prototype presentation in the spring of 2016.

Lisa H. Morgan

Java & XML Files Enhancing the Profession of Physical Therapy

July 13th, 2015

My Beyond the Classroom Experience has been a perfect opportunity to combine my Human Biology major with my Computer Science minor. Currently I am working on building a mobile Android application that will calculate the fitness levels of people in wheelchairs. To date, the majority of the work has been independent since it is difficult to coordinate schedules in the summer in Missoula. At the end of May, I designed the flow chart of the app with a fellow student, Stefan Riemens, who is also working on the project. The flowchart was to the specifications of our client, Professor James Laskin from the Physical Therapy department at UM. We then met with Professor Laskin at the beginning of June to get his approval on the initial design.

Our meeting lasted several hours, but we all came to an agreement on the first generation prototype layout and basic functions. Over the past month and a half, I have been building the app in a software developing environment called Android Studio. Typically, as with most technological projects, it has not gone completely smoothly. I have encountered a major hardware failure which forced me to invest in a new laptop. After a year of struggling, I finally have the appropriate equipment to program without crashes and system issues. It showed me how many compromises I had been making to get around my computer’s problems. Wow was getting a new laptop a fantastic decision! There are not words to describe it….

Currently, the app is almost completed with respect to layout and user interface. I have not yet begun data collection, data storage, or test functionality implementation. There are so many screens/panels throughout the app that I am working on a flowchart to keep track of everything. Stefan and I need to meet with Professor Laskin again soon to check in and make sure that it is moving in a direction that is pleasing to him. The opportunity to apply my programming knowledge to help people in the profession of Physical Therapy is quite rewarding. No longer am I doing scripted homework assignments with precisely detailed specifications, but I have to motivate myself to take my own creative liberty to complete the task. I finally am experiencing bridging the gap between the computer science world and clients/everyday users. I wish more people were interested in combining the fields of computer science with other fields. The opportunities are extremely rewarding, and despite the hard work and time commitment, programming and data knowledge is invaluable.

Lisa H. Morgan