Skip Navigation

2014 Spring Issue 7 (May 23, 2014)

Despite Last-minute Glitch, Room Draw App Tops 6,000 Views

May 30, 2014
By Hart Hornor

Look out, Mark Zuckerberg.

The computer whizzes who brought you the CarlDraw website are looking for more opportunities to improve their web design skills and engage students.  

Founded this spring, the Carleton Developers Exchange finished its first project, CarlDraw, just before last week’s room draw. The project allowed students to enter their room draw numbers and see the chances that each available room would still be available when their draw numbers were called.

The site received 6,360 views during the week, according to Joe Slote, who led a team of 16 students to create the website.

Now, members of the Developers Exchange say they’re shifting their sights to possible future projects. Among them: simplifying the Web Print website, creating an online used-textbook exchange, and developing an app to quiz students on their classmates’ names.

Although the group includes an art history major and an environmental studies major, it is by far dominated by techy types.

Slote, a math major, is one of the group’s founders. His picture on the CarlDraw credits page links to a sleek personal website, complete with a black and white insignia of his initials and a resume to make any future employer giddy. He is, for instance, proficient in JavaScript, CSS and HTML--computer codes used by professional website designers.

But he didn’t learn these skills at Carleton.

Coding languages like CSS and HTML aren’t taught in Carleton courses, Slote said.

He and other members of the Developers Exchange see the group as an opportunity to learn from other students about topics their professors don’t have time to teach.
Sophomore Raven Pillman, who helped write the code for CarlDraw, explained: “The idea was to supplement the computer science curriculum. The curriculum here, at a liberal arts school, is very theory-heavy.”

That’s because Carleton students take courses in a wide range of departments, so they don’t have time to dig far past the basics of computer science.

This, Slote said, limits graduates’ possibilities. “Part of getting an internship in Silicon Valley is, ‘Show me what you’ve done. Show me your projects,’” Slote said. “We want to get that experience.”

Soon after founding the group this spring, members began looking for a project that would not only involve learning new skills, but would also spread the group’s name around the school. Making room draw easier for students seemed like a good idea, except for one problem: at the time, room draw was only two weeks away.

“It was kind of insane,” Slote said. Although the theoretical aspect of the project wasn’t difficult for the ten students who contributed coding, the coding languages themselves were unfamiliar to many. “I think the only person who really knew what he was doing was Joe,” Pillman said.

While the code writers scanned online tutorials to learn CSS and JavaScript, other team members obtained from the Office of Residential Life lists of rooms in the order they had been drawn in previous years. They then determined each draw number’s probability of landing a particular room.

The weekend before room draw, when other students were looking through dorm floor plans and discussing top choices with their roommates, the CarlDraw team was in crisis.

Nearing deadline, they couldn’t always visit the website. “You would load it in Google Chrome and it would work,” asdsd said. “But in Firefox, it was just a blank page.”
They consulted Google. It turned out a part of their code that helped the website load quickly in Google Chrome was making it unreadable to Firefox. So, they deleted it.
Then, at 3 a.m. the night before room draw, Slote did a mock room draw and realized the buttons to filter rooms by gender and size were hidden.

In total, Slote estimated, team members worked on CarlDraw for about 200 hours. So many hours, in fact, that they forgot to think about their own rooming plans. Slote overestimated the availability of singles and had to scramble to find a roommate. 

Add a comment

Please login to comment.