Creative App Project to build community by teaching Android app development

As a self-described amateur app developer, Mark Mussman wants to make the tools for creating Android apps accessible to as many people as possible. His dream is becoming a reality through the Creative App Project (CAP), which will teach a dozen non-techies how to design, build and market Android apps this summer thanks to a People's Liberty Project Grant.
“The thing is that it's not that difficult (to make an app),” Mussman says, “but it's easier when you have someone there helping you along the way.”

Mark Mussman He would know. Although he isn’t a professional app developer, Mussman created his own Android app, Cincinnati Hill Challenge, to supplement his experience of using the Map My Fitness apps. Once he created his first app, he started to realize its potential impact by collaborating with users to host events and challenges around Cincinnati. He began to meet new friends at the events.
“I thought it was pretty neat,” he says. “We started to build community around this app.”
It’s the potential to build community through building apps that Mussman felt made the project a perfect fit with People’s Liberty. The philanthropy organization’s resources, connections and approachability have been instrumental in getting his project off the ground. He especially appreciated getting to meet other grantees.
“Part of what was great about it was connecting with the people on other people's projects,” he says. “It was a really collaborative spirit.”
The spirit of collaboration will carry over into the first CAP class. As the participants meet on Monday evenings for 12 weeks over the summer, they’ll first create an app together as a group, then proceed to realize their individual app ideas. Along the way they’ll also learn how to manage the apps, use analytics and market their creations, eventually helping develop resources to make future app development accessible to the general public.
Mussman wanted to recruit a diverse group of participants to create these apps and to impact a wide swath of Cincinnati’s population.
“Really I wanted it to be people who are involved in their community or looking to get more involved in their community and the Cincinnati community,” he says.
Recruiting women has been difficult, he says, but in many other respects the class will be very diverse. He’s happy with the racial balance and the variety of neighborhoods represented. There’s also a great diversity of age, with participants going into their senior year of high school as well as those much older and deeply ingrained in their communities. Even the ideas for apps vary greatly, including architecture, nutrition and much more.
Accessibility is also why CAP will focus on Android apps. While Apple IOS developers must pay roughly $100 on a yearly basis, an Android app requires only a one-time fee of $25. Android apps also take much less technical equipment to develop — Mussman says they can be created from any computer, tablet or Android mobile device.
“This isn't something you necessarily have to have programming skills to do, just basic Word skills,” he says. “If you can use Microsoft Word and the internet, you’ll be good to go.”
Mussman isn’t intimidated by the idea of starting with technology basics. He’s been working in adult education for seven years and has seen tech skills become increasingly important in that field — for example, the GED recently became an entirely computer-based test. But a potential skills gap presented extra hurdles for some of Mussman’s students who had been out of school for decades.
“I was doing a lot of really heavy technology education, you know, with people who didn’t even know what a mouse was,” Mussman recalls. “You had to start at the beginning.”
With this experience, he’s confident the CAP program can start at the beginning to give participants the tools to create apps and bring people together around them.
“I hope that we’re able to not only teach people how to make an Android app but also create opportunities for different community events and for people to gather together to strengthen their communities in some way that benefits them and also benefits the Greater Cincinnati area,” Mussman says.
The first public CAP event will be a launch and showcase of all the apps in September. Until then, you can follow the project on Facebook and the Creative App Project website.
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