Arjun Rawal ‘26 designed an app to help non-profit HelpHygiene founders track their volunteers’ hours. He then entered his app into the Congressional App Challenge (CAC), where he placed third. Each year, members of the House of Representatives challenge students in their districts to create and submit their original app for a chance to win the CAC. Their mission is to inspire, include, and innovate efforts around STEM, coding, and computer science education. Keep reading to learn more about Arjun’s app, HelpHygiene.
How did you come up with the idea of the HelpHygiene app?
HelpHygiene is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving hygiene in impoverished communities. With hundreds of student volunteers wanting volunteering hours to graduate high school, my parents explained that keeping track of volunteer hours was extremely difficult and time-consuming as only a single spreadsheet was used for logging hours. Not only was this difficult for volunteers to log their hours, but it was also hard for founders to view the hours. Sometimes, the data was lost, or volunteers did not receive the appropriate credit. With my parents inspiring this idea, I started to program the HealthHygiene app, which makes it more convenient for volunteers and lets founders filter the data. HelpHygiene allows volunteers to log their hours through an interactive screen of many input types. Then, they can view their logged hours and their total hours. Founders of the organization can see and filter the logged hours. HelpHygiene allows founders to manage volunteering data and give appropriate credit easily. The data is stored in Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers, so it's reliable and secure. At this point, this app is specifically developed for the volunteers of HelpHygiene. The organization is growing and has expanded to India and a few African countries. The app itself is growing in users as more volunteers require a simple way to log their hours.
Why did you want to get involved in the Congressional App Challenge?
When I started looking into programming an app to help HelpHygiene, I reached out to Mrs. Roemer, my computer science teacher. With her support, I decided to give it a try!
What did you find most challenging during this process?
When I first started programming HelpHygiene, I had yet to learn what to expect as I had little programming experience and had never designed an app before. As this app would benefit a real-world application, I wanted to deploy it to the Apple App store and Google Play store, so I had to learn a lot about phones themselves to ensure HelpHygiene’s compatibility. Unfortunately, I only had experience with Java which is not compatible with mobile apps. After researching programs that provide a framework for mobile app design while creating HelpHygiene, I decided to use react.js. React is a whole different world in programming; therefore, not meant for beginners. I only had a few months to learn and use it. Throughout the project, I ran into hundreds of errors, many of which I had no clue what they meant. At the time, I found it difficult to figure out how to solve these errors without prior education in this program.
What are your key takeaways from this experience?
First, I learned a lot about computer science and building an app from the ground up. But I also learned a lot about navigating challenges and working through things. And also being able to manage time with school. I also learned a lot about HelpHygiene itself. I was unfamiliar with it before creating this app, but as I was programming HelpHygiene, I was required to learn more about what the organization does for those who benefit from it. Also, I found that adding an app to the app stores was easier than I expected.
I think I most enjoyed making the video about HelpHygiene. It was really cool to see the number of views and shares increase and the comments people left; it felt really great!
What advice do you have for other PD students?
Take advantage of resources at PD and try new things; there are so many programs and teachers who can assist you.