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Dublin High School Student Coders Develop an App for Schools: Taking ‘Stay on Course’ from Idea to Reality

March 19, 2018

Stay on Course is a mobile application that helps high school students measure their progress towards fulfilling the requirements needed to graduate with their desired diploma.

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The intent behind Stay on Course was to solve a problem faced by many of our peers at Dublin High School. We noticed that they were finding it difficult to keep track of their academic progress, volunteer hours, and extracurricular activities, which were necessary for them to graduate with their desired high school diploma. The current paper system is tedious, time-consuming, and not always at hand. In a survey we conducted, 4 out of 5 DHS students agreed that this is a problem, with 90% of respondents expressing interest in an app that would help them track their graduation progress.

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Christy Koh (left) and Neha Harpanhalli (right)

Stay on Course alleviates this problem by allowing students to select the diploma they want to graduate with and helping them plan ahead to fulfill each graduation requirement for that diploma, by monitoring their coursework, volunteer hours, and participation in clubs and sports.

During our freshman year, I worked with my classmate Christy Koh to develop a minimum viable product, Stay on Course, for the 2016 Dublin High School Engineering and Design Academy Entrepreneurship Competition. Given the time constraint for the competition, as well as the fact that we were both beginners in computer science, we relied on MIT App Inventor, a drag-and-drop coding interface, to develop the prototype. We did produce a functional prototype, and managed to secure a spot in the showcase part of the competition.

With the encouragement of the competition judges, our teachers, and our peers, we decided to turn Stay on Course into a fully-fledged commercial product during the summer after our freshman year. We took it upon ourselves to learn new programming languages and environments to build our product. We built the application with a MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express.js, AngularJS, and Node.js) and used Amazon Web Services to deploy the service. The two of us spent the entire summer building our product; we often met for 4-5 hours a day, designing and coding new features. Christy worked diligently on the server side, storing data and transmitting it to our application. I worked on the client side, designing and programming the user interface and its functions.

Throughout our sophomore year, we continued to develop the application, making improvements and fixing bugs over the weekends and on holidays. By the spring, the second phase of the app was complete. We re-entered Stay on Course into the 2017 Entrepreneurship Competition, winning first place. Christy and I received positive feedback from industry professionals at the event, who encouraged us to continue working on Stay on Course and eventually bring it to schools. We spent last summer preparing the application for production.

In the fall of 2017, the app was officially published on the App Store and Google Play Store, making it available to download for free on both Android and iOS devices. Just a few weeks ago, we learned that Stay on Course had been officially approved to be “pushed out” to Dublin High students. It will be introduced to freshmen through their Freshman Seminar classes towards the end of March, and used in conjunction with the college and career planning aspects of the course.

Looking back, what started as a small idea for a project in our Dublin High engineering class now has the potential to become a full-blown commercial product. We are thrilled that we were able to deliver a digital product which solves a need within our student community, and can be eventually used in other schools, too. Throughout the process, we gained many valuable skills by taking on a concept and making it a reality; so it does feel like our two years of hard work were truly worth it.

Christy and I are grateful to have received incredible support during the entire development process. We’d like to extend our sincere gratitude to:

  • Ms. Maureen Byrne, for her time, support, and encouragement.
  • Ms. Traci Bonde, for taking the time to meet with us over the summer and guiding us through the process.
  • Ms. Erin Vallejo, for tirelessly advocating for us and helping us launch Stay on Course at DHS.
  • Ms. Eugene Chou, for being a phenomenal mentor and always pushing us forward.
  • Mr. Adam Brown, for his constant support, remarkable patience, and help with testing our app.
  • Mr. Patrick Kleinow, for his time, advice, and role as a consultant for the sports section of the app.
  • Mr. Michael Ruegg and Ms. Sara Hollison, for believing in our app (and in us!) right from the beginning.
  • Mr. Robert Kaehms, for his encouragement and interest in Stay on Course.
  • Mr. Chris MacDougall, for taking the time to meet with us and helping us implement Stay on Course in Freshman Seminar.
  • Mr. Custer Rodriguez, for his time to meet with us over the summer and giving us feedback on security features.
  • Ms. Jacqueline Ji, for her unrelenting support.

Our friends and classmates, for participating in our surveys and giving us feedback.
Finally, our parents, who constantly reminded us to believe in ourselves and keep going. Without their support, none of this would have been possible.

Stay on Course is available to download for free on both the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store. For more information, please visit our website at stayoncourseapp.com or like us on Facebook at facebook.com/stayoncourseapp.

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