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Road safety bear gets phone app

Monday November 19, 2012

Road safety bear gets phone app

Ruben the Road Safety Bear now has his own Android phone app – thanks to some nifty programming work by a group of students from Waikato University’s Department of Computer Science.

The five students produced a set of simple Android-based games for kids in fulfilment of the COMP 314 software engineering project -- a three-month exercise for third-year students to work in groups to design and implement a medium-sized software project for a client.

The games are now available as a free download from the Google Playstore.

Jenny Davis, transport projects administrator at the Waikato Regional Council, says it’s a very cool outcome.

“We had the idea because we wanted something to drive home the road safety message for 3-7 year olds. I saw a kid playing with his mum’s phone and then I saw the story in the local paper about how the University was looking for programming projects for their students, so I got in touch right away.

“I know nothing at all about programming – I didn’t even know what an app was, so the students have held my hand all the way through the project. It’s been a really stress-free project for me.”

The five students first had to decide the best format to deliver Ruben’s road safety message to young children. “We had the choice between something educational or a game,” says Ashish Mathai. “We definitely decided that an educational games format would be best.”

They decided to create four games – one for each message: Be bright- dress bright; Stop, look, listen and link; Helmet on right and tight, and Seat yourself right, buckle in tight.

One game gets the children to change the colour of the clothes Ruben is wearing, and check it against a “bright-o-meter”, another requires kids to match the icons for stop, look, listen and link within a set time – if they succeed, the crossing light turns green, and Ruben gets to cross the road with a friend.

The team had an advantage in having a computer graphic design student in the group, Jamie Killen, who took charge of all the art work. Another student Wanying Yang took care of a lot of the programming.

Team member Nigel Pirikahu says Jenny Davis was the perfect client. “She was clear what she wanted, but also open to our ideas and really supportive. We spent three weeks on the design as our ideas had to meet her expectations.”

All the students say the experience has been hugely valuable. “This paper was recommended to me,” says Lifu Sun. “Employers want real-world experience, and this paper certainly gives you that.”

Lecturer Dr David Streader says the software engineering project is a great opportunity for clients and students alike.

“Our students are in their final year of their computer science degree, so by now they’ve got all the programming skills they need. For them, it’s been an opportunity to learn how to work as a team, and plan and deliver a project within budget and on time -- it’s real world skills like these that make our grads so sought after in the IT sector.”

Games can be found at

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