From telephone technician to app creator

22 September 2017

Stephen Outram

Awarding-winning mature student Steve Outram with University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Professor Robyn Longhurst.

The University of Waikato’s literary journal Mayhem is now available on an app. It’s thanks to one of the university’s mature students Stephen Outram who developed and produced the app as part of a directed study.

Steve was recently presented with an Adult Learner Award from the University of Waikato. He’s finishing off his Bachelor of Media and Creative Technologies and embarking on a Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Computing.

“The idea for the app started late 2016 when I came upon an article about short-story vending machines that were being installed in public places in France. The concept is simple: when someone has time to kill they can head to one of these machines, hit a button and a short story is printed out.”

Steve thought that was an excellent idea and after discussing with university staff from Screen and Media, English, and Computing decided the Mayhem app was doable.

In developing the app, Steve has managed to package all 210 Mayhem articles to date. “Users can not only browse through them all, they can easily access a randomly selected story or poem with a single press of the Quick Read button,” he says. The app has already been published on the Android Play Store, and Steve would now like to publish an Apple iOS version iTunes. He has applied for a University of Waikato Summer Start-up Scholarship to develop the app further.

Steve came to university after a long career, first as a telephone technician and then an IT support worker, spending 20 years working for various companies and schools in New Zealand and the UK. He began his tertiary study at Southland Institute of Technology before transferring to Waikato.

He says he suffers from anxiety issues, but he’s tried not to let that affect his learning too much. “Having left school at 15 I never thought I would end up going to university, so you can imagine how I felt when not only did I start passing papers but to end up with a grade average of more than eight has been real boost to my self-esteem and confidence. I work darn hard at my studies then with all the peripheral family issues to contend with keeps me pretty busy.”

Steve has been a class rep for many of his university papers and has sat on his faculty and academic boards. Outside university he has completed various projects for Volunteering Waikato and has long been a supporter of the Stroke Foundation Hamilton. He develops and administers its website. “It’s good to be able to put my newly acquired skills and knowledge to good use,” he says.

While he was developing the Mayhem App, Steve actually wrote a poem that will appear in the next Mayhem. “I never thought I would end up being a published writer! Isn’t it interesting where life can take you?”

The University of Waikato Adult Learner Awards are presented each year to mature students who are getting good grades and who are contributing to the life of the university and/or the communities in which they live. The other 2017 winners were Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science student Saumaleula Lefeau and Bachelor of Teaching students Charlotte Hartley and Marcelle Messenger.