Self-taught student developed new Wildcat 91.9 app, up for best app award

KSDB-FM 91.9 on air. (Archive photo by Sarah Millard | Collegian Media Group)

It’s 2 a.m. on a school night, and Brody Zwiebel sits at his computer. He frequently switches his browser from YouTube tutorials to Draftbit, an app developing software. Zwiebel is determined to power through his sleep deprivation to create an improved app for the Wildcat 91.9 radio station.

“I would go from like 9 p.m. to 3 or 4 a.m.,” Zwiebel said. “I just kept working on it until I got it to a place where I could show someone, then we would go over what was working and what wasn’t. Then, we would go back to the drawing board.”

The new app allows listeners to stream shows live, access old shows and gives employees a chance to promote their work.

Zwiebel, freshman in journalism, has never attempted to create an app, but he was chosen for the task because of his background in computer science. 

“I was literally just told, ‘Hey do you want to build an app?’” Zwiebel said. “They were just looking for someone to do it, and I had helped with the website, so I decided to try it and it turned into this whole thing. So now I am a developer, I guess.” 

Zwiebel said Wildcat 91.9 wanted a new app because the old one needed improvements.

“It was fine for what it was for the time, but we wanted more functionality out of it,” Zwiebel said. “Plus, it was being hosted by another company so we did not have any control over the app, and no one at the station could modify the app.”

Zwiebel said the learning process had its ups and downs.

“A lot of it was frustrating, especially in the beginning because I didn’t understand anything,” Zwiebel said. “I would make some progress, and then I would not understand something so I would go straight to YouTube and watch and try to understand what I was looking at.”

Jacob Cummings, assistant chief operator for Wildcat 91.9, said he was often a test dummy for Zwiebel’s late night ideas; he saw the creative process first hand.

“The way Brody developed the app was very masterful, and I applaud him for his ingenuity in the face of adversity,” Cummings said. 

Zwiebel said he will continue to make improvements to the app. 

“If I do something new on the app, I have to try it with a bunch of people and see if it works,” Zwiebel said. “We just made the new show page and updated the functionality of the staff page. There was an issue with the top of the page being whitened out. I had to go in after they told me and spend about three or four hours trying to figure out how to make it clear.” 

Zwiebel said he appreciates the process.

“Besides the frustration it has been a lot of fun,” Zwiebel said. “And it is fun managing it and keeping up with updates, making sure everything works and getting ideas from people about what can be done.”

The live functionality of the new app is a beneficial part of the upgrade.

“You can just open it up now and listen to us and hear exactly what is on the air at that time,” Zwiebel said. 

The new app also gives the radio employees more exposure, Zwiebel said.

“Since we are student driven and everything is made by students, getting all that content out there and making it more accessible for people to listen is the best,” Zwiebel said. 

Zwiebel had a strict timeline for the project in order to submit the finished product to the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System Awards. He began teaching himself on Sept. 27, then submitted the app on Nov. 1. 

“After I taught myself with the videos, the actual build time for the app was like a week for the very first version of it, and we have been working on it ever since,” Zwiebel said. 

He said his hard work paid off, and the app was nominated for the best app award.

“The finalists will be announced later this month,” Zwiebel said.

Dawson Wagner, programming and news director for Wildcat 91.9, said he is excited about the app’s improvements and proud of Zwiebel’s work.  

“The technical work behind creating an app that can stream the radio station, play old shows and showcase our entire staff on is just incredible,” Wagner said. “We wouldn’t be at the point we are as one of the leading radio stations in the nation if it wasn’t for Brody’s continued dedication to Wildcat 91.9.”