USC Eats connects diners with campus food options

One semester. That’s the time it took for six students to develop USC Eats, an iOS app that displays menu options for the day at the residential dining hall locations EVK, Parkside and Café 84.

The six students — Brian Anglin, Neel Bhoopalam, Jesse Chand, Arush Shankar, Riley Testut and Eric Wang — are members of “Blackbird,” a Spark SC committee formed at the beginning of the Fall 2015 semester for the sake of building internal tools for Spark.

According to Wang, a senior majoring in business administration and computer science,  the committee members felt limited by the scope of building internal tools only for Spark.

“Though doing this would help our friends throughout the organization, it wasn’t going to have the same visibility and impact that we wanted,” Wang said. “We wanted to build products that would impact the USC student body and beyond.”

The idea for USC Eats developed because of the availability of open data provided by USC. The team then developed the app with a “two-prong attack,” according to Shankar, a junior majoring in computer science.

Shankar worked with sophomore Brian Anglin on back-end development. Together, they formatted the data from USC before giving it to the iOS developers.

The iOS developers, Jesse Chand and Riley Testut, then designed the front-end of the app — the part of the app that users interact with.

“We’re partnering with USC so that the app stays up-to-date with relevant and useful information,” Shankar said. “There is also a mutual understanding that you can look online or use the app.”

The team was originally composed of all programmers. However, according to Wang, it “organically evolved” to become more of an interdisciplinary team, including designers and project managers as well.

USC Eats is the first project that the team did together. They, overcame obstacles associated with being a new team due to their common will to learn and make a big contribution, according to Anglin.

“My favorite part about working with the team is that I get to be surrounded by really smart people,” Shankar said. “There’s so much knowledge to go around that I’m always challenged to work harder.”

After the end of the fall semester, when the team came up with the idea and built the app, it was submitted to the Apple App Store for review.

“I’m really excited that we were able to create a solid product in the end,” Anglin said.

After the app launches, they will release an update which will include more features such as a favorites button. Users can favorite a dish they like and a push notification will appear on their phone the next time the dish appears in a dining hall.

In the future, the team hopes to build more apps that benefit the USC community.

“The next steps for our team are to identify projects that are really cool and start building these projects out,” Shankar said. “One of them has been a platform called ‘Tech LA’, which is a platform for finding internships in the L.A. area. We’re redesigning the whole thing and rebuilding it from scratch, so that the users can have a better experience.”

For now, Blackbird hopes they have set an example for others.

“This menu app is just one example of what USC students can do,” Wang said. “By building this app, we hope other people will be motivated and inspired to build their own projects on top of this data that USC makes readily available.”