With two computers, a laptop, and a number of pre-calculus, calculus and computer books cluttering his office, there’s no mystery how 23-year-old computer science major Yuri Costa became the creator of an iPod chemistry application called iPeTa for Pacific Union College. The only question in anyone’s mind would be “Why chemistry?”
“I was talking with my friend who was taking chemistry, and he said, ‘Yuri, I tried to find this application in the app store, but I couldn’t find it!’” Yuri recalls. “So I thought, ‘Maybe I could do that.’”
The functionalities of iPeTa are no doubt the reason for its popularity among those studying such a difficult subject. The application allows you to add the atomic weight instantaneously, simply by touching one element after another. In order to see more information about the particular element you can just tap and hold on the element. It then dynamically creates a link to Wikipedia, which directs you to the specific page of that element. “The idea was to have a lot of information that wouldn’t get in your way,” Yuri explains.
Creating the application presented a welcome challenge for this programming enthusiast. Because of Apple’s heavy restrictions, “I first had to learn a whole new programming language used basically nowhere else,” he says. Working full-time this summer at PUC’s information technology department, he would go home in the evenings and spend his free time learning the Objective-C programming language favored by Apple. “It was actually really fun getting to know that and learning a new language, playing with it, finding out all the cool things you can do.”
Once Objective-C was mastered, Yuri began the painstaking process of manually typing and entering each element on the periodic table, its atomic mass, and everything else about the element you could possibly want to know before he started the “fun part”: designing the application. The development of the application took a total of seven weeks to complete. Since its release in September of this year, iPeTa has quickly become the best friend of chemistry students in 10 countries all around the world, including the United Arab Emirates, Australia, France, and Britain.
While the monetary rewards at this point are almost non-existent, the experience offers a taste of what Yuri hopes to accomplish in the future. His ultimate goal as a programmer is to develop educational tools that will help students unlock their learning potential in a virtual environment. “I think the human mind can learn a lot more, a lot faster, because in a virtual world, there are no boundaries,” he says. “I plan on continuing my education because I need to learn a lot more before I can actually do relevant work on that.”
That has presented him with a less-welcome challenge—a financial one. But winning the Dorothy S. Patton Scholarship for academic achievement this year helped. “Without financial support it would be hard to go to school here and develop my programming skills,” he says. “It really made it possible for me to keep on studying at PUC and continue with my education.”
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