Sattler Capstones: Computer ScienceWritten by Sattler College
Students have the opportunity to connect the skills they have learned at Sattler with what they are passionate about when they take on their capstone project. Seth Howell and Stephen Taylor, two computer science graduates from Sattler's inaugural class, share how they did that below. Their work exemplifies how tools and practical skills learned through higher education can be used not only to improve and contribute to society around us, but also aid the devotional life of followers of Jesus. Read on to see how!
Seth Howell, Crafting a Hebrew Literacy App for the Old Testament
I designed and built Tanakh Reader, a Hebrew literacy application for smartphones. The app contains the entire Hebrew Old Testament, enriched with grammatical content, vocabulary acquisition tools, personalized data, and an incremental ordering of texts based on difficulty. I hope to publish it to the app store for Android and iOS at a future date.
First and foremost, I love biblical Hebrew. Reading ancient narrative and poetry in the original language has brought it to life in a new way. Especially digging into texts that drip with messianic anticipation, like Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12. Or encountering the liberating Hebrew perception of women entailed in the ezer of Genesis 2:18. I want the Hebrew text to come alive for everyone willing to put in the time to learn. But when it comes to engaging the text, I’ve found bible study software to be cumbersome and distracting. And bare-bones Hebrew bibles lack the vocabulary tools and progress metrics to keep people motivated. As a computer programmer, I’m able to bridge that gap and offer Hebrew readers a way to measure their progress.
My capstone journey began with a quest for Hebrew data. Dr. Scheumann introduced me to the work of the Eep Talstra Centre for Bible and Computer (ETCBC), a group of researchers who have compiled the Masoretic Text and tagged it with a vast amount of grammatical data. After familiarizing myself with data from ETCBC, I wrote code to assess textual reading difficulty and generated over 1,900 subtexts from the Old Testament. I then took online courses for an app-development framework called Flutter and began building the application in a programming language called Dart. Over the course of the Spring semester, I continued to develop the app and implement user feedback. After lots of research, evaluating existing Hebrew tools, networking with computational linguists, collaborating with Dr. Scheumann, and coding, I completed the final app prototype.
Stephen Taylor, "Benedict Option"
For my capstone, I built a web app called the "Benedict Option" that helps users foster their prayer life. My app accomplishes this by providing users an accessible way to pray through scripture and liturgical prayers. Users can choose the length of time they want to spend during a prayer session as well as pick different genres of liturgies or scripture to pray through. A key emphasis is on fostering this prayer life in a communal way online in the app.
My inspiration for my capstone came from reading Rod Dreher's book The Benedict Option. Dreher emphasizes the need for Christians today to foster tight-knit communities grounded in prayer and scripture to avoid the temptations we face today. He offers some practical points on the value of liturgical prayer in a communal context to accomplish this. This inspired me to make an app that tries to implement this.
The most interesting component of my capstone is how it allows users to form groups and pray liturgies and scriptures together in a "zoom-like" interface that is built into the app. The user interface allows people to see both the scripture or liturgy they would like to pray through as a group as well as their friends who are in the video chat. This saves a lot of headache from having to mess with zoom.