How two sisters (twins!) at Pomona College learned iOS mobile development and built an app to minimize waste
America’s waste problem is no joke. Every year, we generate between 250 million and 400 million tons of garbage, all of which require landfill space. This problem inspired Evelyn and Summer Hasama, twin sisters currently attending Pomona College, to design DonateIt, an app that matches people with items to donate with others in their neighborhood interested in picking up those items. Earlier this month, Evelyn and Summer presented DonateIt in front of judges from Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Stripe, and Visa, winning first place over more than 70 other student teams.
“This is such a thoughtful product in the time that we are in right now. During COVID-19 we’re accumulating so many things. From a technical perspective, what a beautiful design. The craft of the app really showed through, and the integration is super top notch. Loved the donation center integration and how it felt like it was part of the core app. Loved the integration with maps and loved the non-profit angle. Congratulations. Really great work.”
Alan McConnell – Head of Live Engineering at Instagram
To learn more about DonateIt and the making of the application, I sat down with Evelyn and Summer to get the scoop on their creation. You can read our conversation below. (Note: minor edits have been made for brevity and clarity.)
Questions are in bold, while the Hasama sisters’ answers are italicized.
Tell us about the motivation behind DonateIt– what problem were you aiming to solve and what triggered the idea?
On a personal level, we have a lot of stuff that we don’t use, and we wanted to create an application that would help. Instead of throwing it in the trash, we wanted to create something that would make use of these things by donating them to individuals within our community.
What steps did you take to define the scope of the application, and how did you prevent scope creep?
Ahuti Patra, a software engineer at Microsoft, was assigned to our team as a mentor. We met with her every week to brainstorm and bounce ideas. Ahuti was there to help us decide between the features that were nice-to-have versus those that were actually needed.
What new technologies and/or tools did you have to pick up and learn in order to accomplish your goals?
This was the first time that either of us created an app so everything was new. We had to learn Xcode, Swift, GitHub, Parse, and Apple’s MapKit. CodePath had great tutorials on GitHub, and Parse was taught in class as part of an Instagram-type project. We also used YouTube to better understand how to use MapKit.
Why did you choose to take the iOS course vs. the Android course?
It was really based on our personal use of Apple products. We both have Apple iPhones, computers, and other Apple products.
What were some of your major roadblocks/challenges and how did you overcome them?
We faced some difficulty using Parse, but we were able to get help and support from the CodePath TAs. We also felt our User Interface (UI) could use some work so we used YouTube to learn how to update the UI.
How was the team set up and how did the team dynamic play a role in the success of the application?
CodePath had a survey that we filled out that was used to determine the teams. When we filled out the survey, we indicated that we would like to be partners. The dynamic was great. We work really well together, and it was easy to bounce ideas and collaborate on features together.
Looking back on the semester, about how many hours per week did you spend learning and developing your application?
For the first 3 or 4 weeks, we spent about 4 hours a week brainstorming. Once we started developing, we spent about 10 hours a week working on the application. The day prior to demo day, we spent about 15 hours prepping.
Was the time commitment difficult for the two of you to juggle, particularly as freshmen?
Yes, the time commitment was definitely difficult. We often ended up working on the class work on the day it was due. While it was difficult to dedicate the time towards CodePath, it was something we both enjoyed spending time on so we had lots of fun.
Where do you see the application going? Can we get some insight on Phase 2? Phase 3?
We haven’t thought about it much, but we think the next step is to work some kinks out and publish the application.
Tell us about your experience with CodePath, the course, instructors, and the community.
We had a very great experience with CodePath. It was the best course that we have ever taken. The course was very different from a typical Computer Science course, and being able to work through it on our own time made it that much better. It was interesting coming up with an idea and working towards developing the idea into a product. We had support through the whole process and could easily get in contact with TAs through Slack and/or Zoom when we needed help or had questions.
We are living through some unprecedented times. Covid-19 has impacted all of us individually and collectively—What kind of challenges, if any, did Covid-19 create during your course?
COVID didn’t really impact us since it was a remote course. The structure that CodePath has set up made it very easy to learn and communicate during the duration of the course.
You’ve learned some valuable lessons and added new tools to your resume—What’s next? Where do you see yourself working or what is your dream job?
Well, we are still Freshmen, so we still have school to focus on, but being Software Engineers is the goal. Who doesn’t want to work for a company like Google or Facebook? We would also like to work at the same company so that we could still see each other daily.
Not many siblings get along as well as the two of you appear to, let alone want to work together. Any interest in starting a company together? Can we expect more joint projects from the two of you?
We honestly haven’t thought much about starting a company together, but we definitely plan on working together on more projects. We hope to continue developing our iOS skills by building more fun apps together.
What is one piece of advice that you would give yourselves if you could go back to day one of your semester?
Pay attention to what the videos are explaining and actually understand the concepts that are being taught. Work to understand what each line of code does so that you can get a better sense and understanding of what it’s actually doing.
Finally, what advice would you give the reader if they are interested in CodePath?
Definitely apply and take the course. Be willing to commit to the time needed to accomplish the projects as well as the bonus features that are optional.
Check out the DonateIt project on GitHub.
Evelyn and Summer Hasama completed CodePath’s iOS mobile development course. To learn more about CodePath and the free courses we offer to computer science college majors, please visit https://codepath.org/classes.