Figure 1. From left to right: Christian Nkoulou Tsongui, Matt Neele, Jongin Seon, and Trungvuong Pham.

When Matthew Neele, founder of ÔRKiD a startup in the culinary industry, needed a mobile app experience prototyped, he turned to GVSU’s Applied Computing Institute (ACI) for assistance. Matt was introduced to Jonathan Engelsma (Director of the Applied Computing Institute and computer science professor) through a mutual friend and after discussing the various collaboration options ACI offers industry partners, decided to submit a proposal to sponsor a senior project team.

Based on his life experience as a chef, Matt founded ÔRKiD to help provide modern digital solutions to the many challenges faced daily in the kitchens of fine restaurants around the world. While Chef Matthew Neele is an expert in the culinary industry, and also has an appreciation for technology, he was interested in tapping GVSU’s expertise to help him bring his idea to the next level. More specifically, Matt was looking for a prototype app that he could use to do a small pilot study with a number of “friendly” associates around the world who work in the culinary industry.

In late August 2019. Matt’s project was assigned a team of computer science seniors that included Trungvuong Pham, Christian Nkoulou Tsongui, and Jongin Seon. After a number of brainstorming sessions the team decided to adopt Google’s Flutter framework to implement the frontend client app, and Google’s Firebase cloud platform for the backend. 

Screenshots of the Orkid app.
Figure 2. Using Google’s Flutter framework and Firebase cloud backend, the team was able to create pilot-ready versions of the app on both the iOS and Android platforms.

Flutter, a cross-platform framework introduced by Google in February 2018, was designed to make it easy to create native apps for both iOS and Android from a single code base. This drastically cuts the development time needed to get a compelling app up and running on both Android and iOS. While there are other cross platform frameworks available, such as Facebook’s React Native, Flutter is rapidly gaining traction among develops and as of December 2019 was among the top 20 open source projects on GitHub.

Firebase is Google’s scalable “backend as a service” cloud platform. Firebase provides all of the common backend services required by most mobile apps such as identity management / authentication, NoSQL database, massively scalable file system, and even an SDK for common machine learning tasks! Firebase is an excellent choice for early stage production mobile apps, in that they allow the develop team to focus on the front-end app development and not have to worry about custom backend development.

Using these technologies, the teams was able to create an early alpha version of ÔRKiD’s mobile app from concept to pilot-ready testing in a mere 15 weeks. The finished product is available to ÔRKiD’s beta testers on both Android and iPhone.

These sorts of experiential learning opportunities help GVSU computer students practice concepts they learn in the classroom, and also develop professional skills that are more difficult to acquire in a typical academic classroom.

“This project definitely prepared me for the internship that I currently am completing”, said Trungvuong Pham. “With the short sprints and steep learning curves, I needed to adapt and learn very quickly.”

Matt Neele indicated that working GVSU’s Applied Computing Institute was a fantastic opportunity and mutually beneficial partnership. “By sponsoring a senior project my firm was able to provide an authentic and valuable experiential learning opportunity for the students, but at the same time their talent and creativity really helped us move The ÔRKiD App to the next level”.

The GVSU Applied Computing Institute, GVSU’s experiential learning platform for computing students works closely with industry partners to identify meaningful collaboration opportunities. The institute is hosted by the GVSU School of Computing and Information Systems, and this particular project was completed by students enrolled in their senior project course. More information about how your organization can partner with GVSU Applied Computing Institute is available at aci.cis.gvsu.edu.

More information on The ÔRKiD App is available at www.orkidapp.com