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Student Develops iPhone App to Link Youths with Homework Assistance

November 28, 2012

By Terri Hughes-Lazzell

Stumped by a math problem? Have a science question? Thanks to an innovative Rose-Hulman student, there's now an iPhone application that gives true meaning to Smartphone technology.

      Homework Apps
  There's An App For That: Rose-Hulman senior computer science and computer engineering student Franklin Totten created the new AskRose iPhone app that further enhances the college's Homework Hotline math and science tutoring service. An interactive periodic table is one feature of the new application.

The AskRose app links Indiana middle- and high-school students with free homework math and science assistance, through Rose-Hulman's Homework Hotline. Through the app, students play mathematical games and use interactive educational resources. The app is available at the iTunes App Store.

Franklin Totten, a senior computer science and computer engineering student, started the AskRose app as a class project with classmates, and completed it on his own after consulting with Homework Hotline staff. The app became available to the public earlier this month.

"They (Homework Hotline staff) wanted something useful and fun that people would want to use," says Totten. "This app allows the Homework Hotline to use current technology to reach students needing help."

The Homework Hotline started in 1991 as a toll-free telephone service. Several online features have been added in recent years, and the iPhone app gives students easier access to Rose-Hulman students that are available as hotline tutors from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday during the school year.

"We wanted to meet high-school students through technology that makes them most comfortable," states Janie Szabo, the Homework Hotline's assistant director of operations and education. "Many students use the iPhone, and the AskRose app further enhances our multi-media features. It allows more students to get help understanding their math and science homework from our tutors."

Homework Hotline Director Susan Smith adds that the application's initial goal was to connect students to the service's website and connect with the tutors. Totten added the interactive resources and games were added as he developed the app.

"We rely on our students to create many items for us, including web items and computer interactive resources," says Szabo. "Our student tutors have so many great talents."

And, Smith says development of the AskRose app gave Totten and his classmates a real-life educational experience. Homework Hotline staff served as references for information on the app, including the questions for games.

"The games are math oriented because 80 percent of our calls annually are math related," states Szabo. "We provided information. We wanted all questions and answers based on Indiana Department of Education standards."

Totten was the brainchild behind the iPhone app's interactive periodic table. "I thought it would be good if it were interactive," he stated. "A PDF of the periodic table was not good enough and the information would be crunched into a small space. So, I worked on something that would be interactive."

Totten plans further updates to "version one" of the AskRose app throughout this school year. He is spending this winter developing versions of the app for Android-based phones.

"It's pretty cool to have an app I worked on the iPhone," he says.

Supported by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., the Homework Hotline provides toll-free math and science tutoring services by calling 1-877-ASK-ROSE (1-877-275-7673) or through the website