This spring, VI Former Leo Qiao '18 started Coding Club as a new afternoon activity. The club's mission is to give students the opportunity to work as a software development team, and to build software and apps that will benefit St. Andrew's. This spring's Coding Club was comprised of Leo, Alec Baretto '18, and Zahara Martinez '19. As its project, the team decided to build a class schedule generator for the 2018-19 school year, when St. Andrew's will be transitioning to a new rotating block academic schedule.
"In anticipation of this transition, it seemed especially important to create a tool that would allow students and teachers to lay out their schedules for the entire year," said Coding Club advisor and computer science teacher John Burk. The student team used Heroku, a cloud-based development platform to build their "SAS Scheduler" app; students and faculty can test out the app at http://sas-scheduler.herokuapp.com/. Users enter their class blocks into the app and press the "generate" button, and the app creates a custom .ics file that the user can import into his or her Google Calendar or iCalendar.
In working on the project, Zahara, Leo, and Alec learned a number of modern software development tools and methodologies, including Node.js, React, Git, and agile development techniques. Throughout the development process, they were mentored by two SAS alumni, Holley McShan '15 and Yousaf Khan '16, both of whom regularly checked in with the Coding Team and offered feedback on their work. "The collaboration culminated with an hour-long joint Skype session during which the team demoed their program to Holley and Yousaf," Burk said.
"It's about time we have a Coding Team at SAS!" remarked Khan. "People may not be aware that SAS has produced several alumni who have been pivotal and influential early software engineers at startups like Facebook, Airbnb, Dropbox, and Palantir. It's inspiring to see an organization that is tapping into the School's tradition of developing problem solvers."
"The Coding Team is a fantastic way for students to explore coding projects relevant to the community and gain team experience outside of sports," McShan said. "Computer science particularly lends itself to group-work and requires the sort of exploration they have the opportunity to engage in at St. Andrew's. I think this is such an impressive group of students—I'm in awe of their initiative and passion. They're able to link their love of coding with foreign language, physics, and many other subjects in a beautiful way."
"I wish others could witness these students' open-mindedness and collaboration," Khan agreed. "For example, when learning new concepts, the team makes sure that each member understands the concept and can teach it before moving on. When I gave them feedback on aspects of the scheduling app, they adapted quickly and produced a new prototype Their persistence, curiosity, and teamwork makes it a privilege to mentor them.
"Our Skype session at the end of the semester was one of the most amazing moments of learning I've seen in my teaching career, period," Burk concluded. "Holley and Yousaf were outstanding at engaging the students in discussing their work, reflecting on what they had learned this spring and giving them advice that will last them for years to come. I'd love to think more about how we can continue to connect our alumni working in computer science to current students studying computer science at St. Andrew's, and how we could grow this 'SAS codes' network."