Software development the apple of Navy officer’s eye

App developer, Rob Emery

App developer, Rob Emery

A Royal Navy officer who designed an application for the iPhone to help people learn physics is now considering giving up his job to concentrate on App development.

Robert Emery, 29, a Petty Officer marine engineer specialising in electrical systems, enrolled on an electronic engineering course at the University of Portsmouth and, as part of his final project, developed an App for science education website, Hyperphysics.

Rob had no previous experience in programming, but is a big Apple fan and understands well what makes a good App compared to an indifferent one. Apple accepted the App and it is now on sale through iTunes for £3.99.

Rob said: “It took me well over 600 hours to build the App and I am thrilled Apple agreed to sell it. Building it was part of my individual project and I had no intention of going into software development. It’s a far cry from my day job in the navy, but I have found it quite addictive.

“I’ve now started my own App development company and am working on developing a range of Apps for small companies.”

The idea for the project came from Rob’s University tutor, Dr Boris Gremont in the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, who suggested there was potential for a Hyperphysics App and a possible business opportunity in creating a micro-company.

Rob Said: “The idea to build an App for the HyperPhysics website was my tutor’s idea and completely relevant to the nature of my course. The website is popular with students and teachers and receives about 50 million hits a year. My aim was to make an App which allows people to access the site’s wide variety of technical information about physics without the need for an internet connection.”

The App helps explain a host of physics principles from how much force is exerted on a car seatbelt in an accident to carbon dating and cosmic background radiation.

App developer, Rob Emery

App developer, Rob Emery

In full, Rob’s App covers electricity and magnetism, mechanics, astrophysics, quantum physics, nuclear physics, relativity, heat and thermodynamics, condensed matters, light and vision, and sound and hearing.

His tutor, Dr Gremont, said: “Rob has done a great deal of work in order to get the App on sale as part of his 12-week end-of-study design project. Rob’s programming and business skills have been put to the test in order to achieve a product that passed the Apple quality control checks and is now on sale worldwide. That is no mean feat.

“Developing the App also demonstrates the technical abilities and ready employability of typical Portsmouth engineering graduates.”

The App was the first Rob had ever designed and built but something about his request to the owners of the Hyperphysics site struck a chord because until they heard from him they had turned down all previous requests from software developers keen to build an App based on their site.

Rob designed his App with help from physicists at Georgia State University in America who are behind the HyperPhysics website, including Professor Rod Nave.

Professor Nave said: “I do have to credit Rob Emery’s initiative in starting the project. I had been approached by several developers previously about the possibility of converting HyperPhysics to an App, but with little information about the capabilities or motives of such developers, I was holding off.

“When Rob made the proposal I was pleased with the prospect of co-operating with a developing student of electronic engineering and the prospect of perhaps contributing to an instructional programme at the University of Portsmouth.

“I must commend the enormous effort that Rob has put into the project over the past three months. HyperPhysics consists of over 14,000 files and has been under development for over 20 years. So to convert a substantial part of it to the form compatible with an iPhone App in about two months is a remarkable achievement. I will be interested to see how it is received as an App and the possibilities for extending the content and the application to the iPad and other devices under the new iOS frameworks.

“The delivery of educational content to mobile devices has an enormous future – we have just touched the edge of it. So it has been particularly pleasing to see the initiative of a young man like Rob in pressing forward on such a promising path.”

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