Developing Apps with Google
Four Haverford students participated in an immersive four-day software programming workshop at Bryn Mawr College with the help of developers from Google.
For most college students, winter break is a period for respite from a busy schedule and rigorous coursework. After a healthy dose of rest and relaxation, four Haverford students decided to end their breaks early and get back to their computers.
Erica Blum ’18, Skyler Ellenburg ’18, Hannah Beilinson ’20, and Alison Rosenman ’20 joined over 20 Bryn Mawr students for a four-day program with employees from Google that gave participants a guided and intensive environment to learn the basics of software programming for smartphones. Bryn Mawr’s Leadership, Innovation, and Liberal Arts Center (LILAC) organized the event and invited Haverford students to apply.
"Programming as a software engineer can be very different from programming as a student or academic, so I wanted to ‘switch modes’ for a week and pick up new skills,” said Erica Blum ’18, a math major and computer science minor.
The first two days of the workshop offered participants a relatively structured engagement with pre-designed projects broken up into “milestones,” while the latter two days let the young programmers experiment and work on their own projects in small groups. Beilinson created a gaming app for Android in her small group that lets the user play single-player blackjack with a computerized dealer.
"I was surprised by how easy it was to pick up both Android Studio and Java, neither of which I had used before this program, in only a couple of days,” said Beilinson, an intended computer science major. “All I needed was a collaborative environment to sit in and code, as well as the motivation to get started."
The motivation didn’t just come from any software developers. The resident employees from Google brought experience and excitement to the workshop, which helped invigorate students and give them an inside perspective from professionals in a prospective career path.
"The best part was definitely getting to interact with the employees from Google and get their input,” said Beilinson. “I especially liked hearing their resume advice, and about their paths to getting where they currently are."
Beyond providing expertise, the Google developers helped make the programming approachable. By breaking down the app-development process step-by-step, the workshop helped demystify an otherwise inaccessible practice.
“I hope to continue to work with Android development, as well as learn new languages and software as part of my coursework and career, and this workshop helped me develop the problem-solving skills I need to be able to do so,” said Rosenman, an intended computer science major and economics minor.
Not every step, however, was straightforward. As Blum put it, “My biggest takeaway would be that if you think something will take a day, give yourself two.”
Luckily, student participants got not two, but four days to dive in without distraction to an exciting new environment. Said Rosenmann: “I’ve learned that with enough focus and the help of proper documentation and people who’ve used it before, any technology can be figured out."