Posted by Erica Hanson, Global Program Manager, Google Developer Student Clubs
Image of Olly and Daniel from Google Developer Student Clubs at Wash U.
When Olly Cohen first arrived on campus at Washington University in St. Louis (Wash U), he knew the school was home to many talented and eager developers, just like him. Computer science is one of the most popular majors at Wash U, and graduates often find jobs in the tech industry. With that in mind, Olly was eager to build a community of peers who wanted to take theories learned in the classroom and put them to the test with tangible, real-life projects. So he decided to start his own Google Developer Student Club, a university-based community group for students interested in learning about Google developer technology.
Olly applied to become Google Developer Student Club Lead so he could start his own club with a faculty advisor, host workshops on developer products and platforms, and build projects that would give back to their community.
He didn’t know it at the time, but starting the club would eventually lead him to the most impactful development project of his early career — building a web application with the potential to help front-line healthcare workers in St. Louis, Missouri, during the pandemic.
Growing a community with a mission
The Google Developer Student Club grew quickly. Within the first few months, Olly and the core team signed up 150 members, hosted events with 40 to 60 attendees on average and began working on five different projects. One of the club’s first successful projects, led by Tom Janoski, was building a tool for the visually impaired. The app provides audio translations of visual media like newspapers and sports games.
This success inspired them to focus their projects on social good missions, and in particular helping small businesses in St. Louis. With a clear goal established, the club began to take off, growing to over 250 members managed by 9 core team members. They were soon building 10 different community-focused projects, and attracting the attention of many local leaders, including university officials, professors and organizers.
Building a web app for front-line healthcare workers
As the St. Louis community began to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, some of the leaders at Wash U wondered if there was a way to digitally track PPE needs from front-line health care staff at Wash U’s medical center. The Dean of McKelvey School of Engineering reached out to Olly Cohen and his friend Daniel Sosebee to see if the Google Developer Student Club could lend a hand.
The request was sweeping: Build a web application that could potentially work for the clinical staff of Wash U’s academic hospital, Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
So the students got right to work, consulting with Google employees, Wash U computer science professors, an industry software engineer, and an M.D./Ph.D. candidate at the university’s School of Medicine.
With the team assembled, the student developers first created a platform where they could base their solution. Next, they built a simple prototype with a Google Form that linked to Google Sheets, so they could launch a pilot. Lastly, in conjunction with the Google Form, they developed a serverless web application with a form and data portal that could let all staff members easily request new PPE supplies.
In other words, their solution was showing the potential to help medical personnel track PPE shortages in real time digitally, making it easier and faster to identify and gather the resources doctors need right away. A web app built by students poised to make a true difference, now that is what the Google Developer Student Club experience is all about.
Ready to make a difference?
Are you a student who also wants to use technology to make a difference in your community? Click here to learn more about joining or starting a Google Developer Student Club near you.