Sep 062011
Authors: McClatchy-Tribune

SAN JOSE, Calif. — When the San Jose Unified School District rolled out its new Web-based student information system earlier this year, students immediately noticed some shortcomings. For one, they no longer could view their current grades for all their classes at one glance. Checking on several classes required several clicks — which for a 16-year-old is, like, so much work.

Instead of settling, Daniel Brooks, then a senior at Pioneer High, came up with a Silicon Valley-style fix: He developed an iPhone app.

Then he got Apple’s approval to hawk it on the App Store, handed out hundreds of fliers and now has 2,300 users who downloaded it across the country.

“It ended up on every iPhone and iPad and portable device that any student and teacher had on campus,” said Scott Peterson, a Pioneer High English teacher who doubles as the campus tech support.

In the months since, Daniel has experienced the highs and lows familiar to many software developers who have created wildly popular apps — although he’s getting them a little earlier in his career than most. Daniel’s app is so successful that users want more; in particular, his teachers started pushing him to develop a version for them. But he’s received less enthusiasm from the company whose clunky technology he improved: software developer Infinite Campus, which developed the Web-based information system accessible by teachers, parents and students.

Daniel said he didn’t write the app to get rich: The app is free. “A student is not going to want to pay 99 cents,” Daniel said. “They just want to see their grades nice and easy.”

Users in 250 school districts across the country also downloaded Daniel’s IC Connector. Infinite Campus, the No. 2 maker nationally of K-12 school information systems, has contracts with nearly 50 California school districts, including South San Francisco, San Ramon, Santa Cruz and Palo Alto.
Peterson embedded a link to IC Connector on the Pioneer High Web site. In the spring, the app was getting more than 200 uses daily on its busiest days.

But Daniel, who developed the app without the cooperation of Minnesota-based Infinite Campus, found the company and school district less enthusiastic.

Both he and his father, software engineer Michael Brooks, emailed the company to seek its cooperation and later see if it was interested in purchasing the app. The elder Brooks received only one email in reply; it said using Infinite Campus’ name and logo in the app’s name confused users and constituted a copyright violation.

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