UTD Rooms returns for student use

Smrithi Upadhyayula
Mercury Staff

As students return to in-person classes once again, so does the UTD Rooms app.

The app was developed by Mithil Viradia, who graduated from UTD in spring 2020 with a degree in computer engineering. It uses data from Coursebook to determine which rooms on campus do not have classes scheduled in them at a given time and are thus open for public use. It also adapts to user feedback, allowing students to mark empty rooms as “open” in real time. Viradia shut down the app during the COVID-19 lockdown, but brought it back alongside UTD’s return to in-person instruction due to popular demand.

Students use open classrooms for everything from group study sessions, to socializing, to club meetingsand some feel that this is an integral part of what was missing while classes were virtual. The UTD Rooms app streamlines the process of finding an empty room for any of these purposes.

Alison Spadaro, a sophomore mathematics and physics double-major, is involved in a variety of student organizations, holding leadership roles in Student Government and on CV Council. Being able to use classroom spaces has helped her make the most of being back on campus.

“Being back in person has given me the chance to visit buildings I’ve never been to before,” Spadaro said. “Since I’m so busy with classes, a lot of times I don’t have time to attend events or study during the day. The ability to use classroom spaces after hours is definitely a plus in that regard.”

Empty classrooms can be a platform for great times. One of Spadaro’s most memorable experiences at UTD was a crafting and movie night held in a classroom in Jonsson, and neuroscience senior Maria Kiesewetter has the UTD practice rooms to thank for the beginning of a close friendship.

“He was practicing piano and came over to say ‘hi’ as I was practicing violin,” Kiesewetter said. “That random encounter turned out to be pretty memorable, since we’re still friends now!”

Kiesewetter noted that the accessible location and academic atmosphere of empty classrooms can make them an appealing spot for studying.

“For me, being able to use classroom spaces makes it a lot easier to gather for study sessions,” Kiesewetter said. “Rooms with whiteboards available have been especially helpful for group study sessions.”

Classrooms are also useful for more formal club activities. Two of Kiesewetter’s student organizations – the Medical Humanities Association and Comet Symphonique – depend on them to host meetings and socials.

“I’m hoping that being back in person means we might have more in-person club socials coming up, which will be a nice chance to get to know faces better,” Kiesewetter said.

Viradia has analyzed data from the app to determine the best times to get lunch on campus, using the logic that dining locations will be less crowded when most students are in class. He is also responsive to feature requests on Reddit, suggesting that the UTD Rooms app will continue to serve students interested in getting more involved on campus.

“I think [the app] would be really helpful,” Spadaro said. “For example, I’m in mock trial, and a lot of times it can be hard for us to find a place to practice together. If we’re able to check the app, I think it would make that a lot easier.”