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Issue 2: Fall 2021


OCTOBER is a beautiful time of year here at Illinois. We hope everyone is having a great transition from summer into fall. In this issue of Inside Rokwire, we will bring you up to speed on Rokwire as we enter the midterm period. New features have been added to the Illinois app and more community projects are underway. Check out the lecture series on the Open-Source Community for news about building smart communities with Rokwire.




In Developers' Corner we sit down with people who contribute to our innovative projects. In this issue, we introduce Sandeep.  

Sandeep Puthanveetil Satheesan is a Technical Lead on the Rokwire project and a Senior Research Programmer at NCSA. His work is integral to Rokwire, and his leadership has guided the platform development team through the release of the Illinois and Safer Illinois apps. We asked him a few questions about his experience as a key member of the team and how he came to join the initiative.  

  Sandeep Puthanveetil Satheesan

How did you come to work on Rokwire?   
I started working on Rokwire at the end of 2018. Dr. Kenton McHenry (currently Associate Director of Software Directorate, NCSA) got a request through the Computer Science department about a new project on smart communities. He introduced me to the project and asked if I could lead NCSA's team. I had some reservations, but my managers had confidence in me. Soon enough, I also convinced myself that this would be an exciting journey—which turned out to be more than I expected at times!

What are some recent developments on Rokwire that you closely worked on? 
Currently, I am working with our team of developers on a web application called the Rokwire Contributions Catalog, which is for people who would like to contribute specific modules to the platform. We hope that this will enable more systems to be integrated with Rokwire. I also worked closely to release the 3.0 version of another web application called Events Manager, which helps to manage and send events to the Illinois app. 

What is one skill that you think everyone should learn or try to learn? 
I think everyone should try to learn more than one language (human or computer or both)! 

Where would I find you outside of work? 
I am an amateur keyboardist, and I enjoy attending musical concerts. I also love watching movies and documentaries at home and in the theaters. I like to travel a bit to visit natural and historic destinations. I am not an avid reader, but I try to read some non-fiction and light reads during my free time. 

Read the rest of the interview on our blog.




Rokwire is a central part in a joint research project exploring ways to use smartphone apps in community responses to violence. The project brings together a team of engineering and social and behavioral science faculty, along with such community partners as the City of Champaign.

The researchers will investigate both social science issues and technical questions associated with how best to design smartphone apps to reduce violence. Researchers will work with the community to investigate and minimize unintended consequences associated with reporting technology (e.g., racial profiling, victim-blaming). The study will also evaluate technical methods to assure data privacy so that users do not risk revealing their identities at any stage of the research and community activity process. The researchers hope to determine the mechanisms behind whether and why violence tracking and intervention apps can decrease violence.

The research group includes professors Sanjay Patel (Electrical and Computer Engineering), William Sullivan (Human & Community Development), Cristina Alvarez-Mingote (Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute), Peter Ondish (Center for Social and Behavioral Science), and Nicole Allen (Psychology).

Faculty interested in learning more about the vision and goals of the partnership between the Smart, Healthy Communities Initiative and the Center for Social and Behavioral Science are encouraged to attend the upcoming Rokwire Community Lecture at noon on Wednesday October 20. Dr. Peter Ondish, Research Scientist at the Center for Social and Behavioral Science (CSBS) will speak on "Social Science Research and the Rokwire Platform." The lecture will be held at the Siebel Center for Design in room 1002 and virtually via Zoom. The session will begin with a 30-minute presentation followed by Q&A. Register to receive reminders and Zoom links. 




Q: Can you use the Illinois app to ride the bus in Champaign-Urbana, and is there a bus schedule or map available on the app?  

A: Yes, a bus pass is available on the Illinois app. All Champaign-Urbana MTD drivers will accept the Illinois app's bus pass in lieu of a fare or i-card. Currently, the Illinois app does not include MTD map or schedule integration. However, you can find a quick link to the Champaign-Urbana MTD website in the Illinois app Student Guide. 

Do you have a question for us? Submit it here.



  Siebel Center for Design

Join Our Lecture Series – The Smart, Healthy Communities Initiative is hosting an inaugural Rokwire Fall Lecture Series. The lecture series includes talks on topics relevant to the present and potential future of Rokwire. Hybrid meetings are held in the new Siebel Center for Design and streamed online every week until Thanksgiving.

Register to receive reminders and Zoom links.
Co-sponsored by the Siebel Center for Design and the Orthogonal Research and Education Lab.


Oct 6: “Open-Source Campus”, Bradly Alicea – Rokwire Initiative and Orthogonal Lab | Watch the Recording
Oct 13: “Campus Apps in North America”, Jinal Mehta – Rokwire Initiative  | Watch the Recording
Oct 20: “Social Science Research and the Rokwire Platform”, Peter Ondish – Center for Social and Behavioral Science 
Oct 27: “Unpacking 5G”, Robert Belson – Verizon 
Nov 3: “Data Trusts”, Angela Risius – Orthogonal Lab 
Nov 10: “STRAT Lab: How to Collaborate with Rokwire”, Yun Huang – School of Information Sciences (iSchool) 

  Dr. Kara Warburton

Community Shout OutWe’d like to extend our appreciation to Dr. Kara Warburton from the Program in Translation and Interpreting Studies for her continued contributions to the language localization of Rokwire. Kara will supervise students in producing localized versions of Safer Illinois during this semester’s translation studies class (TRST 508). The class will focus on updating Mandarin and Spanish and adding Portuguese in the app.  




With the Groups feature, users can now create a communication space in the Illinois app for friends and colleagues. People use Groups for messaging around a certain topic or with a certain set of people, for announcements, chats, organizing meetups, etc. And Groups can be used to publish events in the app.

Any faculty or staff member can create a Group in Illinois app. The group administrators can then authorize students to be co-administrators. All users of the Illinois app can request membership in any public group that they see listed.  

The Groups feature is now being pilot-tested in several units, including Student Affairs and Housing. Residence Halls will use Groups for messaging with residents starting in Q1 2022, replacing Facebook and Instagram.

Try it out: Go to Browse > Groups in the Illinois app.


Rokwire Software Releases
Current version and new features.

Illinois 2.6 |
Groups : Quick Polls : Student Guide  
Safer Illinois 2.11 | Vaccination Status 
Events Manager 3.0