This semester, more student developers will be coming together to improve Yale Mobile, All Around Yale and other apps that Yalies routinely use.
Part of the University’s Information Technology Services’ Campus Community Technologies and run by both ITS staff and Yale students, the Student Developer Mentorship Program pays students to develop online and mobile applications. While the group only had 10 members when it started in 2012, it now boasts 25 student developers working in teams across different projects.
“We have three main purposes: Give students work experience, make projects that improve the Yale community and connect the local developer community as a whole,” SDMP Manager Casey Watts said. “Yale could just buy any app that they need, but we create ones that are tailored to our community and can impact the greatest number of people in unique ways.”
At present, the program has student developers working on five different projects: Android apps, iOS apps, Reservations, Shifts — a web application for ITS employees to log in their work hours — and User Experience. Reservations, Watts said, is a computer system that allows students to check out media equipment through Bass Library. The service is very widely used and gets updated for bug fixes once every two weeks, he said.
Watts added that the popularity of Reservations has caught the attention of a number of other universities, including Stanford, that have expressed interest in the system.
Team Leader for Android Mobile Applications Jason Liu ’16 said working for SDMP provides him with a work experience that is both instructional and self-directed.
“My experience here has been really rewarding because it offers a lot of things that you can’t get in a typical classroom setting,” Liu said. “It gives me the opportunity to lead my own team outside of a big company.”
The Android team is working on a new application called All Around Yale, which will serve as a counterpart to Yale Mobile — an app that gives information on dining, laundry rooms, shuttle schedules and courses — for iPhones, Liu said. Around 3,000 users have downloaded either one of the applications, he added.
The program also seeks to build a strong community of student ITS developers and professional developers in the New Haven community, Watts said. This fall, SDMP has already hosted three technology professionals to give talks on software development topics.
“There are professional experiences that developers can bring to the table, while students bring in the entrepreneurial spirit,” ITS Director of User Experience and Web Services Lec Maj said. “This is a very helpful and productive combination.”
SDMP also hosts Hack Hours — office hours for students working on tech projects — every Friday afternoon from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., SDMP Relationship Coordinator Sara Hamilton ‘16 said.
“Software development isn’t always as seamless as you expect, and it’s a cool process to experience what it would be like to work in this kind of a collaborative setting,” Hamilton said.
Held in “Hack Space” — the program’s whiteboard-covered office at 143 Elm Street — Hack Hours are open to all developers, budding and advanced alike, she added.
The program itself also accepts applications from students with all levels of experience. SDMP student developer Jenny Allen ’16 said she started working with only limited previous development experience.
“I got to join this community of developers that I wasn’t connected with before,” Allen said. “We even have the option of learning completely new coding languages and development tools.”
Watts said that if the group succeeds in obtaining a larger budget from the University, they may be able to expand to as many as 50 student developers.
But Maj said that as the number of developers increases, the management team will have to expand as well. Right now, Watts, Hamilton and Assistant Manager Jemin Lee are the primary managers of the program.
Looking ahead, the program hopes to collaborate with Yale’s computer science department, the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and the School of Management, Maj said.
“Our hope is that students walk away with educational and practical experience, as well as the ability to work as a part of development teams,” he said. “We’re hoping that for a couple of days a week, professional developers can come here and work and interact with student developers as a part of our mission to provide mentorship.”
SDMP student developers work eight to 10 hours a week on average.