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Student project provides mobile tool for safety professionals

IH App development team
April 11, 2013

Many workplace safety professionals throughout the country are now doing their jobs with the aid of technology developed by a group of current and recently graduated Arizona State University engineering and computer science students.

As part of a senior capstone design project, they created a mobile application for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) called the IH Calculator App. The AIHA has more than 10,000 members.

Industrial hygienists are the experts who monitor work environments, from research labs to construction sites, to assess and help prevent potential threats to health and safety, such as air quality, physical hazards or chemical hazards.

Traditionally the job has required carrying paper checklists, books of formulas, spreadsheets and sometimes heavy laptop computers with limited battery power.

The smartphone IH Calculator App the ASU students developed is designed to help the hygienists perform their work with more speed and accuracy, without books, paperwork or computers.

The app consolidates the formulas and equations, and calculates the results in a quick and reliable manner. The app that can be used on all iOS (Apple) mobile devices, cell phones and electronic tablets.

Michael Ochs, a certified industrial hygienist and the assistant director of Occupational Health and Safety for ASU’s Environmental Health and Safety department, proposed the project to the senior design class taught by Debra Callis, a lecturer in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Ochs says he saw an opportunity to not only give students a chance to accomplish something they could add to their portfolios, but to provide industrial hygienists with a useful tool. Ochs directed students in carrying out the project.

The IH Calculator App was tested by members of AIHA and introduced last summer at the organization’s national conference. Since then it has been available online at the website of the Apple Computer company’s App Store. It had also been made available for free download on the AIHA website. By the end of last year, there had been more than 2,300 downloads of the app. An Android version is expected to be available later this year.

In addition, there was a lot of positive feedback from users, says senior Kyle Wright, a computer science major who collaborated on the app project along with six others.

The app has been handed over to AIHA, and the organization may take it to another team of students for further development.

Along with Wright, the project team included 2012 computer science graduates Jared Kraemer, Nathaniel Duemler, Beejal Shah, Grant Freese, Marthony Taguinod and Dave Hubbard.

Hubbard’s participation in the endeavor recently worked to his advantage. In a job interview he was asked if he had experience working in a team environment on a challenging project.

“I brought up the IH Calculator App project as a perfect example,” he says, “mentioning the challenges of working with a large team and some of the issues we faced being new to mobile application development, and how we solved those issues.”

He told his interviewers about how the Android version of the app was still in development, even though most members of the team had completed the senior design course and graduated.

“They seemed pretty impressed by the devotion of the team to continue working on the project after graduation,” Hubbard says. “I ended up with a second interview because of this, so it proved to be very beneficial.”

Written by Rosie Gochnour and Joe Kullman