Maryland program develops phone app to connect with prospects
September 16, 2011
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Interested in Army ROTC? Brochures abound, if you can find one.
And for Army Cadets wondering about their schedules? Just turn on your computer, wait for it to boot up, get a wi-fi signal, open a Web browser and log in to the campus website.
Or, in either case, there's an app for that.
A few technologically-savvy members of the University of Maryland's Army ROTC battalion decided this past spring the best way to manage the myriad ways they connect with current and prospective Cadets was to design and build a mobile device application that puts knowledge in the hands of the user.
"We saw young people on campus, one earbud in, connected to their mobile devices, and we said, 'Let's build a way to reach out to them,' " said Lt. Col. Sam Cook, the professor of military science at the Terrapin Battalion. "Brochures can end up on the floor and in the trash, but with the press of a button we can deliver information to a smartphone or iPod."
To design the app -- believed to be the only one developed by an Army ROTC program -- Cook and his battalion's principal recruiting staff, 1st Lt. Christopher Emmens and Staff Sgt. Mark Wilson, employed the skills of then-Cadet Alexander Styrcula, a Cadet and engineering student with the capability and interest to develop the application.
"I pitched the idea to Alex, and he created a prototype over a weekend," Wilson said.
The staff then took as much information as they could get our hands on -- Cadet Command regulations, the Cadet handbook -- things that were already available -- and worked the information into the app.
Wilson said Styrcula created the app and redesigned portions of the battalion's website during his stint as a lieutenant recruiter for the battalion -- inside of two months.
The app contains information for prospective Cadets -- what it takes to join ROTC, how to contact the battalion staff and a curriculum list; and spells out training options and policies for current Cadets.
"The app is self-guided," Cook said. "When people show an interest in our program, we have them pull down our app. We love it. There are days, especially during new student orientation, when we get flooded with questions."
Cook said the app not only serves to orient people to ROTC, but downloading it actually provides an action step that prospective Cadets can take that amounts to an investment.
Currently, an app is available for Apple Inc.'s iOS and for the Android market.
This story appeared in the September 2011 edition of The Cadet magazine.