University of Iowa

Recent Informatics Grad Built Mason City Community Mobile App

Kaisha Billings

As part of an Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities project and using graphic designs from students in the School of Art & Art History, recent UI Informatics alumna Kaisha Billings built, during her last semester at Iowa, a community-based mobile app on behalf of the City of Mason City and Visit Mason City that connects residents and visitors to the local activities and resources.

The Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC) is a campus-wide community engaged learning organization located in the Provost's Office of Outreach & Engagement at the University of Iowa.

The Embrace Mason City IA App

Per IISC: "App content is organized into two categories - Things to Do and Community Info – which provide users with a variety of helpful information and resources.  The app guides users to Mason City attractions and nearby restaurants. Cycling enthusiasts can navigate the city’s bikeway system and trails. Users can scroll through upcoming events and access Visit Mason City's interactive Travel Guide. All listings include location details and instant directions. Maps and public transit information are also featured, as well as access to the City’s SeeClickFix portal which allows users to report maintenance issues."

According to a Visit Mason City news release: "With the increasing use of smart phones and tablets, our aim is to provide a community portal to attractions, services, and resources that will serve both residents and visitors." The Embrace Mason City app is available now for download from the iTunes AppStore and on Google Play.

Ms. Billings, in the same vein as our "Thoughts of a Recent Graduate" series, was kind enough to answer a few questions on this project and her time at Iowa:

You recently graduated with an Informatics (HCI) degree: what are you up to now?

I work at Informatics, Inc. full time as a Sales Engineer spending half my time coding and the other half helping clients using our software.

How did you get involved with the IISC project?

I met Travis [Kraus; IISC Assistant Director] through my boyfriend Jordan Brown [OOE Program Coordinator]; they both work in the Office of Outreach and Engagement. Travis mentioned the office had been looking for someone to take the project and could not find anyone. Jordan mentioned that I was an Informatics student and may be able to help them.

Tell us about some of your favorite experiences as a student in the CS dept at Iowa?

My favorite experience throughout my time in the Computer Science Department was meeting the amazing professors I got to interact with in class, a couple being Professor Kyle Rector, who taught my overall favorite class Human-Computer Interaction, and Professor Segre.

What advice do you have for our students?

Be involved in the various groups and events offered for CS students if you have the time because it's a great opportunity to network and meet potential employers, and if you're graduating, do not wait until the last minute to start applying for jobs or graduate school!