App helps students find empty study space

RoomFinder taps into lighting system to figure out which rooms are vacant

Students at Bryant University, like collegians at many schools, often had trouble finding quiet study space. Until recently, they would roam the hallways searching for an unused classroom where they could work in solitude. But now there’s an iPhone and Android app that quickly steers students at this Rhode Island institution to a peaceful place.

RoomFinder was envisioned in the spring of 2013 by student Rohan Vakil, who was studying management, entrepreneurship and economics and graduated this spring. When his idea won a Bryant contest for student-life apps, administrators worked with a mobile vendor to engineer the code. The interface design was crowdsourced, while the project was managed and tested in-house.

The app taps into the sensor-controlled Crestron automatic lighting system installed throughout Bryant’s campus. By querying which sensors are seeing movement, the app knows which rooms are empty.

The fact that the app could be developed without any capital investment intrigued Chuck LoCurto, vice president and CIO at Bryant. “We already had the sensors in the rooms that were connected to a main control panel,” he says. “We called the vendor and they shared the database schema with us, and we started brainstorming.”

RoomFinder launched at the end of April, right before finals, and Vakil says he and many of his classmates used it to prepare for exams.

“Winning the competition was great, but the most fulfilling part was actually seeing the app built,” Vakil says. “The best lesson was learning to identify problems and finding ways to solve them by connecting resources.”


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