Gatton student builds app over winter break

Anna Roederer

For many WKU students, winter break means relaxing. Gatton Academy senior Ethan Gill had other plans.

Over the break, Gill designed and launched his own app for iPhones called HueHueHue. The app took two weeks of vigorous work to design but was worth the challenge, according to Gill.

“It’s not as fun if you can easily do something,” he said.

The app is designed for Philips Hue, which is a lighting system that can be controlled from an iPhone or iPad.

Gill said he developed HueHueHue out of personal necessity because he realized that it took him longer to use Philips Hue lights than actually flipping the light switch himself.

The app works on iOS devices and allows users to turn the Hue lights on and off with a simple gesture or a push of a button.

Gill’s app runs all the time in the background outside of an actual app so that it can be used even when the screen is locked.

Originally, Gill thought that mainly he and a few friends would use HueHueHue, but it quickly gained popularity and now touts over 500 users. Gill said that he has received a lot of support and positive feedback for his new app and has been able to customize HueHueHue based on comments from users in the features request.

Through the development of HueHueHue, Gill is able to follow his lifelong passion of making life easier for people through the use of technology.

“My goal has always been to help people save time and to make their lives easier,” he said.

Others recognize Gill’s ability to identify a problem and find a solution, including Gatton Academy Assistant Director of Academic Service Derick Strode. The assistant director praised Gill’s initiative and said that he has a skill that makes somebody successful very quickly.

“It is not completely unusual what Ethan is doing,” Strode said. “What makes Ethan special is that he has a special knack for finding the real problems that affect everyday life and making those problems go away using technology.”

Gill has already begun to make a name for himself in the technology world through events called Hackathons.

Strode acknowledged that although the word “Hackathon” might have a negative connotation, it is the complete opposite.

“These are friendly students solving problems that you and I care about,” Strode said.

As the word suggests, a Hackathon is essentially a “marathon” for people involved in software development to create anything they want using any programming language within 24 to 48 hours depending on the event. Sleep is the one thing not encouraged at these events, according to Gill.

At a Hackathon — hosted at MIT — Gill won an award from MoPub in the ‘best mobile data backend’ category for his app.

According to Strode, Gill was “no doubt one of the youngest students there.”

For those interested in programming, Gill said that in addition to taking computer science classes, most of the work is self-driven. Along with the support from Gatton Academy, his own initiative and help from contacts made from conferences and online, Gill has been able to achieve what many his age only dream of doing.

Gill sought some initial help for designing his app from fellow programmer Nick Frey, a high school senior from northern Iowa.

Frey’s specialty is with jailbreaking iOS devices which allows additional functions that are not available through the Apple store. Frey used his expertise to help Gill start HueHueHue since it is used on jailbroken devices.

While Frey said he helped Gill find resources to get started, from there “he (Gill) really figured it out on his own.”

Frey praised the result of Gill’s idea to help people save time with HueHueHue.

“I don’t have a Philips light bulb myself, but I think it would be handy if I did,” Frey said.

Gill’s advice to people interested in programming is to never give up when facing challenges because the end result is worth the effort.

“It’s very easy to get discouraged with it, but keep pushing through because you can really achieve something great,” he said. He also added that he “had a lot of fun” designing his app.

Gill plans to continue to design software to make people’s lives easier and would one day like to work for a start-up company.

Gill’s application HueHueHue is available to jailbroken phones on Cydia for compatible iOS devices.