An app to help students study for their EPFL classes

© 2018 EPFL / Alain Herzog

© 2018 EPFL / Alain Herzog

Uniknow, an app developed by EPFL students, offers theory, videos and graded exercises. The first module, on mechanics, was a big hit with users. With EPFL’s support, the project is now set to expand and cover other subjects.

For students who take public transport every day, pulling out a large book or laptop to study is not very practical. At least that’s the view of Soheyl Massoudi, who’s in the final year of his Master’s in mechanical engineering. So he joined forces with Valentin Calame, a Master’s student in architecture, and Alexandre Chau and Timothée Duran, both studying for their Bachelor’s degree in IT, to develop an app specially designed to be a study aid for EPFL’s Physics I course (classical mechanics).

A hit on YouTube

“The idea came to me as an undergraduate, when I saw how useful it was to have the solutions to exercises,” says Massoudi. “So I spoke to Professor Jean-Philippe Ansermet and shot around 30 videos with his help. I put the videos on the Exercices Mécanique EPFL YouTube channel in 2016.” In 2017, he went further, this time creating his own Android app featuring quizzes that were again checked by Professor Ansermet. The app was downloaded 2,800 times and highly ranked by users – not just EPFL students but people from all over the world keen on getting a leg up on their own physics courses.

Supported by EPFL

In the wake of the app’s success, Massoudi asked EPFL for help so that he could create an updated version, which would also be available for iOS devices, and extend it to cover other subjects. With the school’s support, he put together a team of students and took his project to the next level. “Not only did I get help from EPFL’s Technology Transfer Office as part of its Enable program, but I was given the use of a co-working area in La Forge. More recently I received an XGrant, which is designed to help students turn their ideas into a business venture,” says Massoudi.

The Uniknow team now consists of Soheyl, graphic designer Valentin Calame, Android developer Alexandre Chau and iOS developer and user interface designer Timothée Duran. This past summer, the four of them created new iOS and Android versions of the app, which were available for download by the start of the academic year.

In-app purchases

The app is free, and its standard version contains 150 exercises. The business model adopted by the app’s creators relies on a second set of 150 paid exercises, which will soon be available as in-app purchases at a price of one franc for ten exercises. “The whole set will cost 15 francs, and this money will help us further develop the app and maintain it,” says Massoudi.

The students have lots of ideas for improving the app: implementing machine learning, optimizing the user experience and, naturally, expanding the range of subjects covered – the Physics II (thermodynamics) course is slated for next semester. A total of nine courses are planned for 2020, and there could even be a version for medical students. Each module will be created by students specializing in a specific area and validated by a professor or section. “Our aim is not to replace the classes given at EPFL or anywhere else but to provide a resource for which there is currently real demand,” concludes Massoudi.

The app is available in the Apple Store and Google Play.

Author: Sarah Aubort