Developer of the Month: Rob Parke Brings His Love of Teaching to the World of App Development

Tuesday 10/13/15 06:05am
Posted By Mike Roberts
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Rob Parke doesn’t just develop apps. He teaches others how to build their own apps, too. Rob works at USC in Los Angeles in the Information Technology Program (ITP), where he is a part of the Viterbi School of Engineering. Interestingly, their main mission there is to teach technology-related courses to non-engineers.

“My enjoyment comes from teaching students how to develop mobile apps,” says Parke. “For most of them, it is the first time their programming experience comes to life in the real world.”

“Instead of text-based programs, they finally see something they dreamed of and created, existing visually, and they are ecstatic,” he added.

According to Parke, ITP offers minors in wide array of topics, including web development, 3D animation, enterprise information systems, video game programming, and computer forensics. They also happen to have a minor in mobile app development, where students learn to create – and publish – Android and iOS apps.

This semester, Rob is teaching Introduction to Java Programming, and Programming in Python.

We recently caught up with Rob (pictured below), and had the chance to speak with him about what drives his passion for teaching, and what he hopes his students will learn in the field of mobile app development.

Rob Parke
USC faculty member Rob Parke has a passion for teaching app development

Where do you and your team get inspiration for your work?

We all have different styles, but each of loves teaching and technology. We are excited to see what end product of what students create with technology, the companies they start, or the careers they pursue. However, the reason we go to our classes eager each day is for the opportunity to invest in students and partner with them in education.

It is for students who have never programmed before, who believed creating and developing an idea in software was some rarefied art attainable to only a few elites, who thought they weren't smart enough or were "too late" because they weren't building computers back in junior high, but now they are ready to go! It is from these students that we receive inspiration. 

What is one thing that makes your place of work unique?

While it is certainly not unique just to us, but one thing that is characteristic about us is we all love our jobs. Our entire department are both experts in their knowledge area but also deeply passionate to teach and train students. Even though we might teach in disparate areas, we all connect on sharing our love to see the generations in front of us equipped to think critically, be able to make an impact, and have a curiosity about the world.

Share with us a fun fact about yourself or your team?

We are starting an office band.

When enduring a long day, how do you and your team stay energized?

We have separate coffee and tea machines that are always kept busy. Personally, I have found that taking time to have a hearty breakfast is one of the best ways to stay energized longer during the day.

Who is your technology hero?

As a child, my love of computers and technology was encouraged by this figure, so my lifelong geek answer is Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data is brilliant and wise, but not flawless. He suggests the power of technology to benefit humanity as well as its limitations. Instead of seeing a superiority in raw intellect, he spends his life learning to be human—endlessly curious about humor, compassion, emotion. We must maintain our humanity as we pursue new frontiers in technology.

How many apps have you and/or your company created using Qualcomm technologies?

Our students have created many native Android and iOS apps as well as Unity-powered mobile games. (Editor’s note: Rob teaches Android app development, so iOS and Unity-based apps were taught by colleagues in his department.)

Here is are a couple of the apps and games created by students in his department:

  • ClickOnComics – developed by Sergio Pedroza, who took mobile and web classes from ITP
  • Pirates vs Narwhals – developed by Alex Ogorek, who took mobile and video game classes

Super Spaaceman title screen

What Qualcomm technologies are featured in your app(s)?

I am currently developing a new project that will use some of the following:

I would like my students to explore combining Android programming with embedded devices using the DragonBoard 410C to create connected devices.

Where do you see the mobile industry in 10 years?

I wish I knew! One thing I wonder about is how the proliferation of connected devices will affect the industry. Instead of having a single device, such as a smartphone, that is always connected, many, many of our devices will be. For companies like Qualcomm, I imagine it will be very beneficial.

My concern is how we ensure that all people continue to have access to our connected life. As one example, this is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), hallmark legislation that made great strides in making services and life equitable for our citizens. However, we have struggled to translate those same protections for the web and haven’t even begun to address it in the mobile realm. As interactions and services move to a mobile or on-demand model, we as developers specifically – and society more generally – need to ensure that everyone has access, not just the privileged.

Finally, what advice would you give to other developers?

I have two suggestions. The first is to connect with people in different areas of your company / industry. A developer might not need to be expert in design or marketing, but learning from each other and how we each see things will benefit both, fostering mutual respect and understanding as well as new ways to solve problems in different domains.

The second thing is to be generous—with your time, knowledge, resources. It is much easier and more rewarding to partner with others to complete a project, offer help, or invest in them without expectation of return. We have had someone assist or mentor us along the way, and we can cultivate a vibrant community by doing the same.

To learn more about USC ITP, please visit their website.