Rice Apps is a student organization that provides technology solutions for on-campus businesses and services, while enabling students to complement their academic studies with the hands-on experience of building web applications. Previous projects have included improving the course scheduler and consolidating health and wellness information into a single mobile app.
The solutions were appreciated, but apps could take 3-5 years to launch, and the stakeholders usually progressed through at least two different student teams because only students with previous experience were approved for the teams. (That meant teams composed of only juniors and seniors, who graduated before their apps launched.)
This year, Jeffrey Wang (B.A. ’19) and Cade Ritter (B.A. ’18) envisioned a different type of student teams and sought students who were committed to building and launching apps, regardless of their level of experience. Because the experience requirement was dropped, 10 freshmen joined Rice Apps this year and four of them were part of a complicated build that went from concept to beta in less than 10 months.
Over the course of an academic year, Rice Apps grew from about nine members to 30 members and spearheaded four new projects this year. Wang and Ritter also looked to introduce industry proven practices such as iterative prototyping and the Agile methodology, to their work flow to maximize the learning experience of their members while respecting their academic commitments. Instead of spending multiple years on a single app, the group launched three apps in a single academic year- effectively reducing their development cycle by 75%. The group has four more apps currently in development.
The three apps that were launched at the end of the spring semester were BeaksSpeaks, Rice Bikes, and Rice Coffeehouse Scheduler.
BeaksSpeaks is a clever bit of code that provides a Rice-only yet anonymous discussion thread, similar to the now-defunct Yik Yak. Using a Rice NetID authentication system that obfuscates the sign-in data, BeaksSpeaks is a simple-to-use anonymous platform built exclusively for Rice students. But that simplicity belies the built-in intelligence that shields users from the discriminatory and bullying behaviors for which Yik Yak unfortunately became infamous.
Rice Bikes revamped a previously developed Rice Apps system that had grown unwieldy after its creators graduated. The new web app streamlines the processes associated with campus bike repair, and simplifies management of the data for both the customer and the bike techs who need to track parts, work orders, and payments.
The Rice Coffeehouse Scheduler was created to reduce the amount of time the student-run business manager spends manually scheduling shifts of student workers, called KOCs – Keepers of the Coffee. Sydney Garrett estimated she spent at least 45 hours each semester on scheduling the KOCs. The new system, which rolls into beta test mode over the summer, is estimated to take only a total of 10 hours per semester. In addition to saving time for the manager, the new app also provides more transparency for the workers and is both scalable and adaptable as the number of KOCs fluctuates between semesters and grows over time.
Rice Apps anticipates launching an additional three projects in the upcoming year, and is looking for industry or faculty mentors to join their passionate team of developers. Please don’t hesitate to contact Jeffrey at Jeffrey.H.Wang@rice.edu for further inquiries.