Using Open APIs In Mobile Apps Activity

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Using Open APIs in Mobile Application Development


In this activity students will learn about Open APIs, how does it relate to open source and how to use in building a mobile application.


CS2 using Java and basics of Android development.

After successfully completing this activity, the learner should be able to:
  • Understand what an Open API is.
  • Understand how open APIs relate to open source.
  • Use open APIs in mobile application development
  • Specifically use the FEMA open data API to build a simple Android accessibility application.
Process Skills


This activity is meant to educate students about open APIs and how to use them in Android app development. The activity is targeted for crisis management APIs to emphasize the humanitarian aspect of HFOSS.


Part 1

  1. What is an Open API? What is REST? How and why is it open ?

  1. What is the difference between open source and open API?

Write a one page summery compiling your understanding of these readings.

Part 2

FEMA (The Federal Emergency Management Agency) has made some of its data public through a REST API The released data sets are listed in and include the following:

  • Housing Assistance Owners
  • Housing Assistance Renters
  • Registration Intake and Individuals Household Program
  • Public Assistance Funded Projects: Summary
  • Public Assistance Funded Projects: Details
  • Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Property Acquisitions
  • Hazard Mitigation Grants
  • Disaster Declarations Summaries

For example, the following http request retrieves data for Housing Assistance Owners. To test the API, run the http request on your browser. For example, the House Assistance Owners API ( when executed on the browser runs this partial record. " {"metadata":{"skip":0,"top":1000,"count":0,"filter":"","format":"json","orderby":{},"select":null,"entityname":"HousingAssistanceOwners","url":"/api/open/v1/HousingAssistanceOwners"},"HousingAssistanceOwners":[{"disasterNumber":1983,"state":"MS","county":"Adams (County)","city":"NATCHEZ","zipCode":"39120","validRegistrations":29,"averageFemaInspectedDamage":8176,"totalInspected":16,"totalDamage":130819,"noFemaInspectedDamage":10,"femaInspectedDamageBetween1And10000":3,"femaInspectedDamageBetween10001And20000":0,"femaInspectedDamageBetween20001And30000":1,"femaInspectedDamageGreaterThan30000":2,"approvedForFemaAssistance":9,"totalApprovedIhpAmount":96070,"repairReplaceAmount":69315,"rentalAmount":20347,"otherNeedsAmount":6408,"approvedBetween1And10000":5,"approvedBetween10001And25000":3,"approvedBetween25001AndMax":1,"totalMaxGrants":1,"hash":"5a7d9748949c69e2b8c8bc7d93158820","lastRefresh":"2014-12-12T01:18:19.599Z","id":"546e064687456f7b0c07de85"}


Now choose two different APIs, run an http request for the API on your browser and copy a couple of records from the result in your report.

This output is in JSON format.

Part 3

Develop an Android App that provides an interactive interface to search and display a data feed from the FEMA data sets. Your App should use the sample code attached to retrieve data from an API and your task will be to design and develop and App that displays this data.


  • A report including answers for part 1 and part 2
  • A .zip and .apk of your Android app.

Notes for Instructors


Criteria Level 1 (fail) Level 2 (pass) Level 3 (good) Level 4 (exceptional)
Understands what is a Open API and how is different that open source Little to no understanding shown; Answers are made up or unrelated; Didn't read material Limited understanding, showing that they read some, but did not dig very deep Showed that they have done the readings with limited understanding Clearly explain the answer to each question with supporting examples
Testing FEMA APIs No testing Testing with bad results Testing with good results Testing multiple APIs with the correct result
Create an Android App that retrieves data from a REST API Did not attempt to create the App App retrieves data but data is not parsed App retrieves data and parses the json data App retrieves data, parses data and displays data
An interactive interface is develped to display data Did not attempt to create an interface Create a limited interface for the app Create a complete inteface displaying all retrieved data Create an efficient interface with the ability to search/filter the data


Android Development, JSON data model

Additional Information

Area & Unit(s)

PBD/Mobile Platforms


Mobile programming languages



Estimated Time
to Complete

6-8 hours

Environment /

Internet access, Android Studio installed


Ruby ElKharboutly


Ruby ElKharboutly


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


Suggestions for the Open Source Project

  • Suggestions for an open source community member who is working in conjunction with the instructor.
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