1| The First Few Weeks: Learning and Experimenting

One of the first things I noticed about Texas is that the squirrels here are significantly smaller than their counterparts in Ann Arbor – so much for “Everything is Bigger in Texas”.  I am now entering my 4th full week of my summer internship experience in Sugar Land, Texas.  Attached to this post is a picture of me in front of an oil drilling rig, which I promise is related to my internship in mobile application development for CollegeCommunityCareer – a nonprofit whose mission is to increase college access and success to underserved (usually first-generation, low-income) populations in the Houston area.  Some background is definitely in order.  I am a rising junior studying Informatics with a concentration in Life Science in the College of Literature, Science, and Arts at the University of Michigan. High social-impact work has always excited me.  When an opportunity came up to apply and build upon my technical knowledge in a nonprofit setting, I knew it was something that I had to chase.

My project of focus during this internship is developing a mobile application that will help CollegeCommunityCareer (and hopefully other nonprofits and educational organizations) plan and execute field trips.  Many nonprofits rely on meticulous planning, execution, and data collection (such as surveys) in order to accomplish their mission and remain competitive for grants.  My mobile application seeks to be a one-stop solution for nonprofits.  Here are some features I am working on:

  1. Using location tracking for issuing alerts to parents when it is about time to pick their child(ren) up from a field trip or to make sure that students are not going too far away from a field trip site without approval.
  2. Hosting surveys on a mobile interface to collect feedback from students after a trip (this should lead to higher response rates than just giving them a sheet of paper).
  3. The ability to issue alerts to chaperones, students, parents, or others on demand and/or by location
  4. Mobile permission-slip signing (it is hard to believe how common it is for students to forget to get their permission slips signed)
  5. Other mobile engagement

Since the time period of my internship is pretty short (roughly 2 months), and this is my first full mobile application project, I decided it would be best to approach this project with cross-platform development.  This is developing for Android and iOS users at the same time instead of one at a time (native application development).  I am doing this by implementing code with HTML/CSS and JavaScript, while utilizing the JQuery Mobile  and PhoneGap frameworks.  I spent a good amount of my first few weeks brushing up on my HTML/CSS and JavaScript, and building upon previous knowledge.  My go-to resource for this has been a MOOC facilitated by The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology on Coursera.  I have also been familiarizing myself with the JQuery Mobile and PhoneGap frameworks (this is my first time using them).  I feel like I am putting a lot of the skills I developed in EECS 398 (Computing for Computer Scientists, by Dr. Marcus Darden) to use.  The course emphasized learning many things on your own by searching the web and experimenting, and thought me several useful techniques and great tools to use to optimize my software development (coverage testing, Git wizardry, and testing with scripts come to mind immediately).  I am excited to go through the rest of this journey and hopefully come out with a product that will be very useful for CollegeCommunityCareer and potentially other nonprofits too.

One of the philosophies that CollegeCommunityCareer emphasizes is that every employee, regardless of job role or function, participates on the front-lines of their mission, and interacts with the students in their programs.  I have spent a good portion of my time in this internship, out of the office and on field trips – and it has been one of the most rewarding parts of my internship experience.  I have had the opportunity to visit Texas Lutheran University and Texas State University with some students, and serve as a resource as a college upperclassman.  I also have spent a good amount of time at the University of Houston in Sugar Land, TX with a program called “Take A Chance Me”, which gives students a glimpse into Digital Media and English coursework at the college level the summer before they head off to college themselves.  So, back to that picture of me in front of an oil drilling rig.  We took a career-oriented field trip to the Schlumberger Campus in Sugar Land, and I absolutely could not miss this photo opportunity.  The student interaction component of the internship is interesting, and I have decided to marry the focus of my internship with it.  I am bringing on a team of high school students interested in either software development or gtaphic design/art, and we will be working on this mobile application together starting tomorrow! Most of the students are coming in with limited or no programming experience, so I am excited to expose them to a whole new world of possibilities and potential academic pursuits and career opportunities.  I think I will learn from them just as much as they will learn from me, and I will be a better software develop, product manager, and person as a result.

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Sujay S

I am a student studying Informatics (with a Life Science Concentration) in the College of Literature, Science, and Arts at the University of Michigan. I am currently working as a Mobile Application Development Intern at CollegeCommunity Career, a nonprofit in the Houston, Texas area that aims to increase college access and success to underserved populations in the area. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of this rewarding experience, due to support from AmeriCorps VISTA program and the Brock-Wilson Family Fund for Student Support LSA Internship Scholarship.

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