WEST POINT, NY, UNITED STATES
Story by Brandon OConnor
Are you trying to figure out what events are happening at the U.S. Military Academy? Are you curious about the menu at the mess hall or what courses are offered at West Point? Thanks to cadets in the systems engineering department, there’s an app for that.
Available on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, the West Point App was created to provide information to cadets, the community and visitors to West Point. The app has been up and running for a couple years but is currently undergoing changes as part of a capstone project for class of 2020 cadets in the systems engineering department.
“What we’re really focusing on for our group is marketing and usability,” Class of 2020 Cadet Zachary Aloma, an operations research major, said. “We’re trying to get the word out there that this app exists because it’s not too well known right now. Then second, we’re trying to make it a more usable app for three different communities.”
The capstone group doesn’t do any of the backend coding for the app. Instead, their job is to analyze the usage data to see how different groups interact with the app and then pair that with the needs and wants of their two clients, Brig. Gen. Cindy R. Jebb, Dean of the Academic Board, and Col. Cecil Marson, West Point garrison commander.
The team has split in half, with one part focusing on the dean specific aspects of the app such as guest speakers, access to academic information and admissions, while the other half of the team has worked to become experts on garrison issues and how community members can use the app. This includes the ability to push notifications about road closures and emergencies and to find information about MWR events.
“Now that we know what our stakeholders want, and we’ve identified what is useful and what’s not useful in our app, how do we improve those and what other new features can we bring in?” Class of 2020 Cadet William Huff, a systems decisions science major, said of the capstone team’s goals for the project. “This semester, we’re going to really get involved in putting new steps and new gears into our app.”
The group initially pushed out an update in August and has been working to create a profile system within the app to enable different users to interact with the app in unique ways with tailored information more readily available and notifications related to the user’s interests.
The first step of the update has already rolled out and now when users open the app for the first time, they will be asked to select whether they are a cadet, community or visitor. Depending on which category is chosen, the information presented to them on the homepage will change.
“When a cadet opens the app, they’re going to see something that’s hopefully slightly different than a visitor would see because they have different needs and uses for the app than a visitor,” Aloma said. “Our goal is whatever member of those three communities comes to West Point, they get use out of it that gives them up to date information.”
Analyzing the usage data has already led the team to make some changes such as the mess hall menu, which is the most used item by cadets, the team said, and one of the menu buttons on the main page. As part of the capstone team’s updates to the app, Class of 2020 Cadet Shelby Haynes, a systems engineering major, has worked to make sure Sexual Harrassment/Assault Response Program information is readily accessible on the home page of the app.
“My job as a cadet is the regimental trust officer and what we’re supposed to do is get out resources for people for sexual harassment and assault prevention,” Haynes said. “Coming in, I really wanted to make that on the forefront and make sure a lot of cadets could have this resource.”
While more changes will be coming as the team continues its project throughout the semester, the current version of the app can be easily found on Android and Apple devices.
“Just type West Point in the app stores and it is the first one to pop up,” Haynes said.