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Philly Give Camp 2010: Part 3

As the MECA staff were describing the application, I didn’t have a clear sense of how beneficial our work would be. To illustrate how our application would help people, they showed us a video of a student going to a gym. In the first clip, the student has trouble following directions and signage about the use of gym equipment. In the second clip, the student is following auditory prompts and exercising at the gym with little trouble.  Another student was able to prepare a meal with the help of visual prompts from a PDA. It was illuminating to see the difference that prompts could in someone’s daily life and spurred us to work even harder.

We decided to split the application into 3 components:

  • A REST API written using Rails
  • A HTML/Ajax builder web application
  • An iPhone user application

We had a team of about eight people, and we knew we had to separate tasks somehow. There were some individuals with iPhone experience (mostly novice stuff like simple view demos), and some with Ruby experience, and then there were two designers with CSS and some jQuery experience.

We figured Trevor, who has extensive Rails experience should lead the API effort, and that Brian, who has done the most, albeit little, iPhone development using MonoTouch should lead the student application effort, while the designers should focus on designing and implementing some of the builder code. (The interface for the user application had already been worked out by group consensus.)

I decided I could best help with the API, so I worked with Trevor on that. Something that I think amazed all of us was that once we had assigned ourselves to teams and broken the project up, we functioned seamlessly, all of us entering the zone in our respective areas. It’s the kind of synergy and flow you get when the majority of your team knows their shit. It was an incredible experience to be a part of that.

We had a good framework and sample response API for the student interface and builder to start building plumbing by the time we left on Friday. Meanwhile, the iPhone app team had gotten some samples working using Monotouch. The builder interface was looking really sharp. We were off to a good start when we decided to break for the night around midnight.

In the next post, I will describe some of the insights behind the API.

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