There's a (Real-World) App for That:
Professor Creates Apps, Teaches Students How
Raul A. Salazar, Ph.D., believes that technology offers a better way for retail consumers to save time, cash, and trees than the cumbersome task of printing, clipping, and redeeming paper coupons.
Salazar, an adjunct professor who teaches computer science at the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, developed Savvy Penny, a paperless coupon system. Now teaching part-time at the college, Salazar founded Green Virtual Solutions, an environmentally conscious technology company. Along with his cousin, he began work on Savvy Penny in 2009 with the intent of “helping supermarkets sell and the shoppers save.”
With Salazar’s system, shoppers need only a cellphone with Bluetooth technology to register, select, and redeem coupons. After a one-time registration at participating stores, shoppers can select coupons at in-store iPad stations. The iPads are loaded with the Savvy Penny application and serve as interactive touch screens. Coupons are then redeemed electronically during checkout.
The system, which launched at Milam’s Market in Miami, Florida, in January 2011, eliminates the task of cutting coupons out of the newspaper or printing them off the Internet. “This is a way for people to save money and save the environment,” said Salazar, who was an assistant professor from 1988 to 1998 at Nova Southeastern University, where he also taught at the Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences and helped create and direct the computer science laboratory.
Salazar incorporates similar technology in his coursework, including teaching students in his computer graphics course how to create Android applications. Students and faculty members said he is known for bringing innovation and a hands-on approach into the classroom.
“Besides learning computer graphics, students are able to learn the basic concepts of mobile applications, a very useful skill in these times when people rely more and more on their smart phones and mobile devices,” said Enrique Lifshitz, a computer science major who was a student in Salazar’s computer graphics course.
“Besides teaching how to create Android applications, he showed us the steps to follow to publish Android apps on the market. His extensive experience in the industry provides students with a real-world perspective, rather than a textbook or academic point of view.”
Saeed Rajput, Ph.D., associate professor and assistant director of the college’s Division of Math, Science, and Technology, said Salazar introduces students to cutting-edge technology. “His students highly appreciate the wealth of experience they get from him. Many students rely on what they learned from him to obtain their first jobs. His classroom environment is relaxed, and his students feel welcome to discuss their ideas. In most of his classes, he gives out individual projects. Each student is free to pick his own project, and he helps each student bring to fruition their own ideas.”
Salazar plans to expand to three other supermarkets in Miami and to go nationwide within three years. He hopes his students will view the venture as an example of “using technology to create and improve the way we are living and the things that we use.”
“You can give students something practical that you have experienced in real life instead of just something they saw in a textbook,” he said. “I try to get students to look at the possibilities. There’s always a possibility of doing something in a different way. If you think outside the box, sometimes you can solve a problem.”