Tech Spec: Showcasing a Technologically Innovative Student

On every college campus, there are students who are working on interesting projects, creating useful items or just dabbling with ideas. Especially in the technology (engineering) field, you can always find out about some person who is working on something fascinating. One of these people is computer science sophomore Greg Littlefield, who has come to produce some interesting programs that can be taken advantage of by anyone.

While Greg Littlefield loves building unique programs, he also enjoys using the programs himself. Photo by Courtland Jeffrey While Greg Littlefield loves building unique programs, he also enjoys using the programs himself. Photo by Courtland Jeffrey

Let me start out by saying that Greg is a close friend of mine, but I feel that he has some interesting projects that could come of use to, or could entertain, my readers. I have known Greg for eight years now and he has been so interested in the programming aspect of computers that he began to teach himself code in middle school (he created a program that allowed him and his friends to chat over the school server). From then on, he has found many different projects that utilized his passion. Since he has entered into college, Greg has created, and has continued to improve upon, a couple applications in specific: his ASU Seat Checker and a program called “Granular.”

Over his freshmen year of college, Greg realized that at the end of every semester, he and his peers ran into the issue of trying to find open seats in full classes. Most people know that if you want to get into a full class, you are stuck either hounding your advisor for some sort of help or constantly refreshing the online class roster in the hopes that someone decided to drop the course. Since Greg ran into this specific problem and did not want to occupy his time with always pressing F5, he created a Java Applet (a program that will run on any operating system with Java) that runs on PC, Mac and Linux that does this task for you. It runs in the background and, once you input the class information, it will periodically check to see if a spot has opened up. Once a seat becomes available, the seat checker will display a notification, letting you be the first to pounce on that hard–to–get class. Coincidentally, as I spoke with him, a full class that he wanted opened up and The Seat Checker notified him, so he got in.

One would think that making a program like this could take a couple weeks, especially while balancing a class schedule meant for a sophomore student. Greg completed it in just over half a week. “Yes, I coded the seat checker in about four days, and released a few updates to make it Mac-compatible shortly thereafter. Then, halfway through last semester, I pushed out an update for iCourse checking, and it's been working smoothly since,” Greg said. Greg has also been working on an Android app rendition of his program and hopes to have it available within the next couple days.

Granular is an reaction simulator that brings together both The Falling Sand Game and Conway’s Game of Life and it can be played on any web browser. Photo by Courtland Jeffrey Granular is an reaction simulator that brings together both The Falling Sand Game and Conway’s Game of Life and it can be played on any web browser. Photo by Courtland Jeffrey

The other project, Granular, is a web simulator that is based off The Falling Sand Game and Conway’s Game of Life (Googling this will bring you to definitions of the game and show you an example on the results page), Greg said. It is somewhat difficult to explain both of these programs, because they simulate complex environmental situations, but Greg tried to concisely sum it up by saying that “the goal [of his program] is to make the concept of simple rules leading to complex behavior accessible to anyone with a modern browser. And, of course, to have fun playing god with these mock-reactions.” Granular can run on any modern browser, but it is the most fun on touchscreen devices. You can draw elements with a swipe of your finger and watch how they interact. He even included an element editor, which allows users to tweak (or even create their own) elements and share them with others. While Greg has been working on the Granular project since last September, he feels that it is not yet ready for the public. Due to the extensive effort and time that he has put into Granular, Greg hopes for this to become his honor’s thesis project. As one of Granular’s few beta testers, I can say that this simulator brings an environmental complexity to a simple level, all while entertaining and pushing one’s thoughts further to try and find new outcomes. I feel like I am learning new things while I am having fun; it is awesome.

The Falling Sand Game is what originally piqued Greg’s interest in the programming field years ago. He was constantly tinkering with how the game worked and, over the years, it turned into him wanting to create his own rendition of the game. The Seat Checker program is available to download for free and he plans on making the Android app available on Google Play very soon. Granular is not yet available to the public, but Greg plans to announce its official release over Reddit in the coming months. This student is putting his passion to use in incredible ways. Keep an eye out for Barrett student, Greg Littlefield, as he is bound to come up with another idea that will not only be helpful to him and others, but will captivate everyone.

 

If you have any questions or comments, email me at cejeffre@asu.edu and follow me on Twitter @Court_Jeffrey. Enjoy!


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