The first project we had to do was to create a portfolio from a template. Super simple, but back then it was bit more of a challenge. I was still learning the basics of HTML and what everything was. I think we had a week or two to do it, which was plenty of time. It turned out well, and was a good intro to UIT and the basics of developing websites.
After the portfolio we all made chat apps. Mine was a canvas with a chatroom to collaborate on math equations called Mathboard. We had two weeks to make this one, and it was written in JS and HTML. I used PubNub for the backend of mine because it was a lot simpler than Firebase for making a canvas. This project also turned out well and was where I really started learning a lot more about coding, particularly JS.
UIT isn’t just code!
Meanwhile, on the business side of the course, we’ve been following startups and learning the basics of starting a company and how to keep it afloat. Global Entrepreneurship Week is also a huge thing at UIT. For one week in November, we had events with mentors every day. I wrote a blog about it here, but to sum it up, it was such a fantastic networking and learning opportunity, and I’m super happy to have been involved even in the small amount that I was.
Global Entrepreneurship Week also marked the second week we were working on our next project, a software-as-a-service app. I remade Mathboard, but without a canvas and focussed on connecting users to tutors. You can make a room, and then that room is joinable by one other person who will be your tutor. Then after the tutor helps you, you can leave them a rating as you leave the room. Very simple concept, but I didn’t start early enough. During the last week before we had to present it, I came in on off days to get help from Rob (thanks Rob!). Thankfully, I had something put together in time, which also turned out alright. The website isn’t something I plan to continue with other than as a UIT project.
End of the semester
The last day of the semester we presented our portfolios again, but this time we updated them and added our projects. The last day of the semester was also cancelled by a storm. I still drove in to do my presentation. If that doesn’t say enough about how much I’ve enjoyed the semester, I’m not really sure what else I could say.
Next semester, we’re going to start another project where we use our own backend for one of our previous projects. I’m looking forward to getting started on that, but I’m going to use the break to learn more JS, because I feel like that is where I’ve experienced the most difficulty. As for this semester, everybody did not a bad job.
It’s the final week of the semester at UIT. We’ve just finished our final presentations of the year! After we pitched our service apps at the start of December, we were given two weeks to take what we learned, and apply it to our other projects. This last presentation we did was to tie that all together into our portfolios and show off what we’ve achieved this semester.
As I was looking back at my other projects I’d done, such as my portfolio page, and my chat app, I realized how much better I’d gotten at working on web based projects. I’ve been programming for a while before attending UIT, but working on programming projects with actual deadlines was a new experience for me. Working on my own projects meant that I could work on my own time, with no deadlines. I was able to learn how I worked while I had a fixed deadline, which is something that I’ll be doing lots of in the real world.
I’m honestly happy for the most part with how I used the time I had to get things done. I mean, there are times where I’ll procrastinate. But the projects revolve around one of my favourite hobbies: programming. Procrastination usually just means programming something else for a while, and switching between projects to keep from getting bored with one thing.
When I looked at my first portfolio page I made in the first few weeks of UIT, I decided rather than improving what was there, I’d do a better job if I just scrapped the whole thing and did it over from scratch.
This worked out really well for me. I was able to get something I was happy with, rather than just hacking something together. It wasn’t cluttered like the original. Just a simple, clean looking page.
I made some icons for my portfolio items this time, and although I don’t consider myself a graphic designer, I had a lot of fun coming up with the ideas for the icons, and I like how they turned out!
After I looked at my chat app, YTRoom, I decided if I was going to really do anything serious with it, I would want to redo that whole project as well, and build it from the ground up. I really like the functionality it has but I feel like the user interface just isn’t there. The sidebar is kind of annoying, in that it changes the size of your video every time you hide or show it. That’s just naming one thing I noticed that could be changed, there are many more.
For improving YTRoom, I changed some of the styles to reflect the look of YouTube a bit more, and it turned out looking super Canadian. I’m not complaining though. I also added some simple fixes to the code like persistent auth, added enter key press to send a message, and fixed an annoying issue where there were scrollbars on the page all the time, even though there was no more content to scroll to. Really minor fixes, but it’s all I could think of to improve without completely rewriting the app from scratch.
As far as my service app goes, I’m in the process of planning out the second prototype. I decided to build it with some frameworks and languages I’ve never used before. For the new version, I’m using React for the front end, and Ruby on Rails for the back end (React on Rails!). It’s going relatively slow right now, just because I’ve been focusing on other projects.
Now that it’s the winter break, I’m going to be picking up the pace with development on it. Right now, I just have the concept landing page, and I really like how it looks. I’ve showed it off to a few people and they have all agreed that it looks really professional. Woohoo!
Overall, I’m super happy with how this semester of UIT went. I’m really excited to go back in January, and keep working on projects, learning new things and working on honing my skills. Being in this environment has been great for me, because it’s helped nurture my love of programming, and put a serious use to it. I’ve seen what my work will look like at the end of this whole school year. Especially when I look at the code I’ve written before UIT compared to the code I’m writing now. There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to keep making progress and pushing ahead!