As the end of the semester approaches, students at UTM are working vigorously to meet assignment deadlines, add last minute touches to their group projects, and cram for any remaining midterms. Amru Elmassad, a third-year commerce student, very much falls into these categories. However, while the rest of the student population manages to get in a few hours of sleep after a hectic day of classes, Elmassad stays up to work on a project close to his heart: an app targeted towards university students. The Medium sat down with Elmassad to find out more about his passion project.
The app, titled “Ferad,” is aimed at connecting students on campus so that they are able to fulfill their social and academic needs. When asked why he chose Ferad as the name, Elmassad stated that he wished to pay homage to his Sudanese roots since the word “Ferad” is a Sudanese slang term used to refer to friends or companions.
“I decided to choose this name because whenever people think about this app, I would like them to think of it as a platform that allows people to become close friends, which is essentially the main mission of the app,” Elmassad says.
Elmassad aims to bridge the gap of disconnected-ness between students on campus. “When I was at Wilfred Laurier University, one of my professors said that if you ever face a problem, think of all the ways that you can solve it and that idea really stuck with me. I noticed that students were really disconnected and I wanted to solve this problem,” states Elmassad.
In order to do this, he has incorporated many unique features within the app to address this issue. For example, students are able to share daily updates about their tasks on the app’s main page. Other students who are carrying out similar tasks, or who are interested in the task mentioned, can then easily reach out to the person who initially posted on the feed, and make friends with them.
“I also implemented a forum feature which will allow students to start discussions with each other. Let’s say a student requires advice on switching programs, he or she can post their queries on the forum and then other students can provide advice on how that person should proceed,” says Elmassad
Another aspect is the “events” feature which allows students to post about any academic or social events taking place both on and off-campus. “Clubs and societies at universities can also post about their events to attract more students,” states Elmassad.
Elmassad has also included five different groups beforehand so that users can easily get into the flow of socializing on the app. The first group allows students to form study teams based on mutual courses or academic interests. Students can coordinate when to meet up for study sessions or just post general questions regarding an upcoming project or midterm.
The second group is aimed at informing students about any parties taking place on campus, or nearby.
According to Elmassad, “the third group is dedicated towards allowing students to post comic strips or memes. I got the idea from a Facebook group that I saw.”
The fourth group is for students who wish to save time spent on commuting by carpooling. The final group is called “Meet Me” and allows students to meet up with other students on campus whenever they’re free, or have nothing else to do.
On being asked if this was a joint venture or a sole project, Elmassad states that he is the only one working on the app, however he has partnered with an agency called Oodles Technology which is in charge of developing the source code for the app. “I am only providing the content; they are in charge of the programming. However, after the app is developed, I’ll be taking over and will be in charge of carrying out updates and fixing any bugs.”
Elmassad has also received a lot of support from his family. “My sister has also developed an app previously and my brother is doing his Ph.D. in programming in New York, so they tend to help me out often”. The late-night chat sessions with his sister are Elmassad’s favorite part of creating the app.
A prominent issue that Elmassad may face is the fact that there are many major competitors in the market so he has to really work to promote his app amongst the student population. “I am mainly relying on social media platforms and news agencies to get my word across. While the app has costed me $2,750 for development, I also have to spend an additional $1000 for advertising” states Elmassad.
Since the app will be catered towards multiple universities in Canada, it only makes sense that a strong marketing campaign accompanies it.
The app development is due to be finished by December 14th, and Elmassad hopes to launch it for public use by January 2019. “If the response in Canada is good, I want to make the app available for students in Sudan as well,” concludes Elmassad.