Loyola University Chicago

Department of Computer Science


Non-Computer Science Majors Challenged to Build Android Apps Over J-Term

Non-Computer Science Majors Challenged to Build Android Apps Over J-Term


J-Term is a great way for Loyola Students to get ahead in their studies. The term offers students to pick up essential credits in just two weeks. However, this means cramming in a whole semester of work into a very small time frame.

The ten students who enrolled in COMP 125 were in for quite a surprise. COMP 125 is an intro course to programming designed for non-CS majors. These ten brave souls were tasked with creating their very own custom Apps for Android using AppInventor, a tool freely available for all.

AppInventor makes programming more accessible to those who do not have any experience with programming. While a seasoned CS major could fly through the course rather easily, the course was a daunting task for students with zero programming experience. However, they were up to the task.

The first half of the term was spent with teaching the students the basics and having them build assigned apps, such as a simple app that plays different sounds when different buttons are clicked. Later, Timer events were added, such as changing a displayed image every 5 seconds. One of the more challenging assignments was to design a Xylophone app. The app not only played different notes based on which key was pressed, but also had a play-back feature which allowed the user to record tunes and play them back.

After the initial wave of assignments, students were tasked with coming up with their own app as a final project. This is where the students’ creativities really shined. They selected apps based on their own personal interests. One student designed an alarm clock app that required the user to answer a simple math question before the alarm would stop, forcing the would-be sleeper to actually wake up. The creator commented, “the app was something I wanted for have for myself, due to the fact that I found myself hitting the snooze button and sleeping way past when I actually wanted to wake up!” Another student, who had an interest in yoga, made an app that displayed various poses and gave information on how to make the pose. It also allowed the user to participate in a “mini-yoga session” by displaying the poses in a random order and instructing the user to hold the current pose until a new pose is displayed, all the while soothing background music is playing.

Upon completion of the course one student remarked: “Going from zero knowledge about apps to being able to create my own in two weeks was pretty incredible.” Another agreed: “Having no experience with programming and being able to make my own app was pretty cool.” A lot of the students had no idea what to expect, but most said they “enjoyed it more than they expected” even if it was “much, much, more difficult” than they expected.

If you have any non-CS friends you think would enjoy a fun introductory course to programming, I encourage you to talk to them about COMP 125. Not only is it quite fun, but they can most likely use the credits for whatever major they have. The course is also offered during the Fall and Spring Terms for those who want to take things a little slower than J-term. 

For those who want to try their own hand at AppInventor, head over to http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/

For those interested in learning more about J-Term, check out http://www.luc.edu/januaryterm/index.shtml

More information on COMP 125 can be found at http://people.cs.luc.edu/whonig/comp-125