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Students help develop mobile application for beekeepers

HiveTracks_t.jpgBOONE — Appalachian State University computer science majors John Sarris and Jeremy Mikkola are helping Dr. Jay Fenwick, professor of computer science, develop an Android mobile phone application that will help beekeepers keep track of maintenance of their beehives.  The students are working with the developers of Hive Tracks, a free Web application for beekeeping records, to develop their mobile phone application.  

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Participants in the Android application project to help area beekeepers are, from left, students John Sarris and Jeremy Mikkola, Dr. Jay Fenwick, Mark Henson who developed Hive Tracks, and Dr. James Wilkes, chair of the Department of Computer Science. (Photo by Marie Freeman)

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A screen capture of the students’ application as it would appear on a mobile phone.

Beekeepers must inspect and perform maintenance of their beehives to ensure the bee colony’s health and productivity.  Hive Tracks, the Web application found at, provides a simple electronic way for keepers to record data and keep track of maintenance they have performed and future maintenance needed for the hives. Providing an easier way for beekeepers to keep track of their hives is hoped to reduce the incidence of beehive loss and colony collapse disorder (CCD).  CCD is the abrupt disappearance of worker bees from a beehive.  While such disappearances happen naturally, it became a cause for concern when the number of these disappearances rose dramatically in North America in 2006.

“The Android application provides a mobile, stable way for beekeepers to store their records,” said Sarris, a junior from Charlotte.  The application has also been designed to alert users of needed maintenance.  The Android operating system is found on certain Smartphone mobile devices that come with Android software installed in them.  Once the application is completed, it will be turned over to Hive Tracks and be distributed by them.

“Our piece of the project provides user alerts on the phone as reminders of important hive health activities such as medications and inspections,” said Fenwick.

Fenwick and his students recently presented this project at the 2011 National Conference for Undergraduate Research in Ithaca, N.Y.  The NCUR began at the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 1987 to encourage undergraduate research and creativity in partnership with faculty or other mentors.  More than 400 participants attended the first conference, which has grown to 2,000 participants during the past 20 years.

“The conference was a great experience,” said Sarris.  “I learned a lot about subjects I don’t know much about and I also learned a lot about giving presentations for my future career.”  After graduating from Appalachian, Sarris hopes to start a career in computer science or go to graduate school.

“This project has taught me a lot about the mobile application design process,” said Mikkola, a junior from Boone.  “We got to decide what the application does, who to talk to about problems we had and how to make the application work.  Research experience is important for graduate school programs and this project has given me that experience.”  After graduating from Appalachian, Mikkola hopes to get a master’s degree or career in programming.

“This project will help us do anything in the computer science field, and it wouldn’t have worked without the guys from Hive Tracks,” said Sarris.  “It has provided me with the opportunity to build real world experience and skills that will give me an advantage when applying for jobs or graduate school programs.”

“I have benefited from this project by seeing the students use the concepts and theories they have learned in their classes in a real-world setting,” said Fenwick.  “The students benefit from an exposure to the culture of research as well.”

Hive Tracks is based in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It was founded by Mark Henson and Appalachian’s Department of Computer Science chairman James Wilkes.  For more information, visit