Sharp Scholars: a Web Application Final Project

sharp scholars: a web application final project

Hey, y’all, today I’m talking about a different final project called Sharp Scholars. It’s a web application!

An introduction to Sharp Scholars

When I was a freshman in college, I was required to take a class about how to succeed as a college kid. In the class for this project, we reminisced on what we wished we would have learned as freshmen. All of us were collectively disappointed in this freshman class that was supposed to teach us how to succeed. Thus, we set out to make a web application that would provide the things we wished we would have learned. 

Step 1: gathering a team

At the start of the semester, I knew two people in this class, one of which was a previous team member of the Learn Bot. So I recruited the only two people I knew. Since we were a group of three we needed one more person to meet the group number requirements. So we gained two group members randomly. Then we had our first meeting where we decided to do Sharp Scholars. The day after our first meeting, we gained another group member. We went from a team of three to a team of six. 

Now we have a team and we’ve decided what to do as well as a (rough) idea of what we were going to do. There’s a bit of time before our team’s check-in. 

Step 2: check-in

For the check-in, we had to build a prototype of our website stating our expectations, what the project was, etc. In my mind that also meant we had to have our courses written so that we could have a flushed out website. So as a team we came up with topics freshman in college should learn, divided up the topics, and wrote course material. I also split the team in two, so there’d be people to do the frontend and others to do the backend. I was primarily on the backend team.

At the check-in, we had a beautiful front end, broken server code, and research started on MySQL. 

Server? Backend? Frontend? MySQL? 

Any website you see is comprised of a frontend and a backend. The frontend is basically all of the stuff you see. The text, navigation bars, pictures, etc. The backend is what makes the buttons you see on the page work. It connects the website to the internet (via a server). You use MySQL (or SQLite) to make a database that can be used for things like registration and login. 

My biggest struggle with backend

When you were younger, did you ever go to the library and try to pick out a book for yourself? There were all kinds that you’d probably enjoy, right? Books with big, colorful covers or ones that smelled like that lovely old book smell. There were too many books available. I had no idea what books would be age/level appropriate. Any research done, we ended up redoing using an in-class tutorial we had.

What did you do for Sharp Scholars?

Essentially, I was co-team leader and project manager. I wrote all the meeting notes, helped write scripts for the videos, facilitated meetings/workdays, helped merge all the files, and wrote the code for the three message boards/logout function.

Step 3: Meetings, a lot of meetings

In our second meeting (10/16) we decided on an aesthetic for the website, told the backend team to start researching how to do backend stuff and set expectations for the content that was to be due by Halloween. Our third meeting wasn’t uber-productive as it was our first in-person meeting and they kicked us out. In our fourth meeting, we approved the nuggets and made a clear timeline until our deadline (Nov 27). In our fifth meeting (11/06), we redefined what we wanted to do for the website since we had a much clearer idea of what we wanted and one thing was for sure, the backend was going to need help. So we delegated in pairs (the backend had 4 people). November 11th’s meeting was to catch up on what everyone was doing and seeing where people needed help.

In the next meeting (Nov 13), we decided to schedule some workdays because we were concerned about how little time we had left and thus made a list of what needed to be done. November 17th’s meeting was similar, as progress had been made and we needed to make sure everyone knew what was going on. On our first in-person workday (Nov 20), we got several working functions (login, server, and MySQL). We had another workday the next day (virtually) and got all the MySQL translated to SQLite and all the HTML/CSS transferred to handlebars. Our November 25th meeting was successful, we got the message boards up and running and set expectations for our Friday workday (last one). Nov 27th was our final in-person work day and we basically finished all the smaller tasks and two members stayed up until 3 AM putting everything together.

File merging by hand, are you a heathen?

Yes, that was annoying but I think part of that was constantly having to play catchup. I don’t know if having GitHub would have helped since not everyone knew how everything worked. I will say we did briefly look into it but ultimately, decided to just upload versions to our Google drive and have members merge files. 

Step 4: Video time

Because of the virus that shall not be named, instead of in-person presentations and code review, we submitted two videos that essentially did the same job. I helped write scripts but didn’t help video edit since I don’t have those skills. It turned out great and our professor complimented us on the professionalism of the videos.

Step 5: Sharp Scholars presents?

Unlike other projects where the videos are uploaded to YouTube for the world to see, this one was a private submission to my prof and thus, I cannot say I have permission to upload here. I can say he seemed please with the look and feel of it and as a team we were satisfied with the final product.

Sharp Scholars final thoughts:

I am so incredibly thankful for the team I had for this project. Everyone was so nice and I learned a lot from them. Thank you so much for reading this long post, I appreciate it. Comment below what your best/worst team experience is and if you want more final projects, consider subscribing to my mailing list and, if you like this, consider checking out my Learn Bot final project here.

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