Penn College grads develop food-finding app | Life

Penn College grads develop food-finding app |  Life

An idea hatched a few years ago among hungry friends at the Pennsylvania College of Technology has become a reality for restaurant-searching smartphone users.

Darren J. Leh and Andrew E. Young, 2021 IT graduates, recently launched Out2Eat on the Apple and Google app stores. The free app facilitates group decision-making on a vital question: Where should we eat?

“I am extremely proud of Andrew and Darren. To my knowledge, they are the only students of mine who have published an app in the mobile app stores,” said Spyke M. Krepshaw, assistant professor of computer information technology. “As an educator, it’s not every day you see students go beyond being able to follow their passion outside of class.”

Out2Eat allows users to choose from pictures, descriptions and reviews of restaurants downloaded from Yelp. Searches are filtered by type of food and restaurant location. When everyone in the designated group swipes right on the same restaurant, you have to vote on whether you want to eat at that restaurant.

“We set it up under majority rule so it doesn’t slide all the time and never get to a concrete solution,” said Young, a Hollidaysburg native who lives in Watsontown.

“I think it’s most likely to be used by groups who are going on an exploration trip, going to a new city or traveling to new places,” said Fleetwood’s Leh. “Everyone can just jump on the app and find something they want.”

This is what the pair would have wished for if they had been able to find something new to eat during a “boring” school day in 2020. By then, Leh and Young had become fast friends after meeting in a database class. Their quest to mutually explore and agree on a restaurant started the three-year process that culminated in Out2Eat.

“We thought if there was an app for that. Around the same time, I was taking a web design class and Darren was taking a software engineering class. We just decided, ‘Hey, we have to do this,'” Young recalled. “We originally created it as a website and then we said, ‘No, this has to be a mobile app. It has to be something that people can use on their phones.”

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They spent months outside of class researching various databases, programming and design options. Those efforts intensified after they graduated in 2021 and started new jobs: Leh as a software engineer at online restaurant services company WebstaurantStore, and Young as a web programmer at Penn State’s Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations. Countless hours are devoted to the application project after work and on weekends.

“I’m not surprised they stuck with it,” Krepshaw noted. “I remember when they approached me with their idea. I was impressed with their vision at the time and I could see that they really wanted to make it happen.”

“Honestly, it was a relief when the app came out,” Leh admitted. “Part of us was thinking, ‘Is this worth it?’ Is this something that people will really enjoy? We received positive feedback from family and friends, so we took that as encouragement and motivation to get to where we are now.”

More than 100 people have downloaded Out2Eat since its release in late January, which meets the duo’s initial expectations.

When developing the application, Leh and Young divided the workload according to their individual IT strengths. When they hit roadblocks, they swapped problems so a fresh pair of eyes could examine the dilemma.

“The dynamic between Darren and Andrew works really well,” Krepshaw said. “Darren is the one who stays up all hours of the night coding and fixing bugs. Andrew is more the one to check it in the morning and point out little things that still need attention. Both strive for perfection. They simply approach it from a different perspective.”

The obstacles to creating and publishing the app were many for the pair, but their Penn College degrees proved to be a consistent remedy. Leh majored in software development and information management, and Young studied web and interactive media.

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“My software engineering background helped me understand how to create algorithms, how to interact with external APIs (application programming interfaces), and how to choose the best way to build our application,” said Leh.

“Having a strong background in website design and understanding how to write and apply proper CSS (Cascading Style Sheet Language) helped a lot when it came to designing the app,” added Young. “We are grateful for the networking and networking skills that the Penn College experience has given us.

The friends returned to their Penn College roots last year to test the early stages of the app. Leh and Young met the Association of Professional Programmers, a club they had belonged to in college.

“We tested the app and showed where the bugs were,” Leh said. “He helped us a lot.”

According to Bahram Golshan, associate professor of computer science and the club’s advisor, the interaction has also benefited the students.

“They needed to see how an app is made for publication,” Golshan said. “There are additional steps a developer must go through to publish an app. The students had the opportunity to see and question the process.”

For Leh and Young, the process continues despite working 40 hours a week remotely for their employers.

“We are always working on improvements. It’s never going to stop,” Young said.

One option is to eliminate Yelp as a provider of restaurant information and descriptions in the app. Instead, Leh and Young would create their own database and charge restaurants a monthly fee to appear when users search for dining options on Out2Eat.

“Restaurants can give us information and high-quality images that they want people to see,” Young explained. “They could give us their Facebook star rating, their Google Business rating, and other information that Yelp doesn’t provide.”

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No matter the future direction of the application, Penn College graduates are confident that their vision will be realized.

“For both of us, there’s nothing we can’t build on the program side,” Young said.

For information about computer science degrees offered by Penn College and other majors offered by the School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520 or visit

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education. Visit, email [email protected], or call toll-free at 800-367-9222.

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