Greensburg teen develops mobile safety app

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Like all seniors at Greensburg Salem High School, Jason Stofko had to complete a final project centered around the industry in which he planned to make his career. 

Unlike all seniors, his project — a mobile safety and security application — made its way beyond the classroom and onto the campus of Seton Hill University. 

“I've always been interested in programming,” Mr. Stofko said. “I took four programming classes at the high school.”

The 18-year-old generated the concept for his senior project when his dad, Gerald Stofko, director of public safety at Seton Hill, told him that the college was seeking a safety and security app. University officials wanted people to use the app to alert security and maintenance to potentially dangerous situations, to request escorts at night and to research safety procedures.

“When we heard that Jason Stofko was developing such an app for his high school senior project, we were excited that we could get a similar application to what’‍s on the market but allow it to be customized to Seton Hill,” said Barbara Hinkle, vice president for administration and registrar. “It truly was a perfect fit.”

Mr. Stofko created the app between July 2013 and April. He learned three new computer languages: HTML, JavaScript and jQuery. With the help of a program called Xcode and a website titled Codecademy, he developed six different functions for the app.

In addition to listing emergency contacts and procedures, the app enables users to request a security escort, to report safety concerns and to sign up for campus safety alerts. It also features an interactive map with information about nearby parking lots. 

The programs that Mr. Stofko used were all free, so he did not need funding to complete the project. He gave the app to Seton Hill free of charge. 

The university’‍s Computer and Information Technology Department will make the app available to students, faculty and staff. Students will be able to access it on iPads that they receive as part of the university’‍s Mobile Learning @ The Hill program. 

The app is clever and simple, Ms. Hinkle said. She anticipates that it will be ready for use next semester. 

Mr. Stofko will follow his app to campus when he enrolls at Seton Hill as a freshman in the fall. He plans to earn a major in computer science and a minor in graphic design. 

He hopes eventually to work professionally in computer software engineering, and he’‍s working on a new app — a game for mobile phones — that he wants to finish by the end of the summer. 

“It’‍s a little platform where you keep running, and there are going to be monsters and stuff you have to fight,” Mr. Stofko said. 

He acquired some skills by developing the safety app.

“I learned definitely how to keep time constraints,” he said. “At the end, there were a lot of problems that still needed to be fixed, but I timed it out perfectly so it was done before I had to present it. Also, self-motivation because I had to teach myself those three languages.” 

Mr. Stofko said that completing the project wasn’‍t easy, but he’‍s proud of his accomplishment.

“It was definitely fun at the end of it. During it was a little stressful,” he said with a laugh. “It was kind of cool because it was the first big project that I ever finished on that scale.” 

Marisa Iati: miati@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1891 or on Twitter @marisa_iati. 


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