Andres Solano had two concerns about leaving his home country of Colombia to come to Grand Valley as a graduate student in 2010. The first was the weather here; the second was the fact that he had been out of school for quite a while and away from the rigors of attending classes and doing research. Neither has deterred the now 33-year-old from succeeding.
Solano, who worked in Colombia at a software development company, was contemplating graduate studies. He came to Grand Valley after a hometown friend already here invited him to review the opportunities for his professional growth.
"Grand Valley has been wonderful in many ways," said Solano. “The professors are very good; they encourage students to undertake research and provide unusual opportunities for commercial development. And the weather has not been too bad, though this is the first time I’ve experienced snow. After being here almost two years, I have also found that whether it is cold or hot the people here are very kind.”
While completing his graduate studies in the School of Computer and Information Systems, Solano was given the opportunity to work on the development of an iPhone application for the university’s Art Gallery. Under the direction of associate professor Jonathan Engelsma, Solano built the majority of the app, in the Mobile Applications and Services Lab, as his master’s thesis.
"Art at GVSU," available for free in the iTunes App Store, provides access to the more than 10,000 pieces of art in the university’s collection throughout five campuses. It features tours, browse and search functions, as well as icons for easy sharing options.
Thanks to Solano, Grand Valley is one of the first worldwide to create a native mobile application that draws data from an online Collective Access database. Development of applications for Android and other mobile devices are underway and a future release as open source would contribute a very significant application to cultural institutions worldwide.
Engelsma noted that the learning curve on this project was significant for Solano. He not only had to learn how to program iPhones, but he also had to learn a lot about art, art galleries and the software systems curators used to manage their collections. "He really rose to the challenge and gained some practical experience that we trust will serve him well in his future career," said Engelsma.