Meteoric Success for Computing Student

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Stargazers will soon be able to navigate the galaxy, thanks to ‘Astronomo’, an easy to use and innovative phone ‘app’ created by IT Sligo student Enda McCormack.

Twenty years old Enda from Riverstown, Co Sligo and former pupil of Coola Post Primary school, was one of eight computing undergraduates  to win a coveted place on the first ever ‘app’ camp hosted by leading IT company Kainos.

The 8 week intensive software engineering  course  was designed by the Belfast based company to hothouse the brightest and best new, raw  IT talent, giving them an opportunity learn everything they needed to know to design, develop and launch their own applications or ‘apps for Apple’s iconic iPhone and iPad.

“It’s a ‘win win situation,” says Tom Gray, Kainos Chief Technology Officer.

“Kainos get to engage with bright, young undergraduates by finding out first-hand what they have to offer; while the students are mentored by our team of highly experienced of developers to help hone and shape their skills for commercial success.”

Competition for places on the App camp was tough and Enda  – who has just completed   his first year of a Computing in Systems and Networking degree at IT Sligo – was up against some of the brightest and best IT undergraduates in Ireland.  From an original entry of almost 200, Kainos selected just eight students to take part.

“It has been a challenge but a very enjoyable one. I’ve learnt so much and there is a great feeling of accomplishment knowing that I’ll soon be able to launch my own app,” says Enda.

With hundreds of thousands of apps now available to download, he admits that it is increasingly difficult to come up with an original idea but with the help of the Kainos team, he thinks his app, Astronomo, will tick all the boxes.

“I had great support from my mentor Luke McNiece and the rest of the brilliant team at Kainos to help design develop and test the app at the different stages.”

He continues: “I knew it would be challenging but it was a lot more intense than I’d expected. We’d to learn a new programming language and use new tools on an unfamiliar operating system. We were thrown in at the deep and although this seemed tough at the time, it really helped my skills as a developer to come on.”

Enda explains that Astronomo is designed as an easy to use astronomy based app.

“I wanted to create an immersive experience to make it easier for users to learn about astronomy. Atronomo helps identify the Messier objects – this is a list of 110 objects in space named after the French astronomer Charles Messier – and you can use the app to explore the 25 closest stars to earth and learn more our own solar system.

“I decided to take a novel approach to astronomy. Instead of looking up at the stars, I thought it would be cool to look in from the outside and plot an actual galaxy map. With so much available information though, it was a challenge to get the right balance and include as much as possible, while at the same time, making sure Atronomo is is easy to use.  The app is nearly finished and should be available to download in early September  – and I’ll get a couple of weeks off before going back to IT Sligo!”

As well as an opportunity to launch Astronomo on the official Apple App Store, Enda and each of the other Kainos ‘app campers’ also get an Apple Macbook and iPod Touch to help them continue their software development work .

Looking ahead, Enda says he has plans to include additional features to Atronomo.
“I have a few more ideas I want to develop and I’d like to create versions for Android and Windows phones.”

Congratulating Enda on securing his place with Kainos, Mr Keith McManus, Head of Department of Information Systems at IT Sligo said:

“It’s fantastic to see Enda’s  progress since he secured his place on the App Camp and got an opportunity to work with a company such as Kainos.  This, on the back of our success in the Imagine Cup, highlights the quality of the students, lecturers and degree programmes at IT Sligo.”

IT Sligo offers a number of degrees in Computing including Games Development, Web and Creative Media, Software Development, Systems and Networking.  All courses share a common year 1 enabling students to get a sense of where their strengths lie prior to committing to their degree stream.

For more information on computing courses at IT Sligo click here.  Enda’s blog on the development of Atronomo is available here.

Image Caption: IT Sligo student Enda McCormack

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