Tag Archives: Apple App Store

Dylan Diamond Makes The Grade

Back in the day, students learned their grades 4 times a year: the end of each quarter, when report cards came out.

Today — isn’t technology wonderful? — kids can access their grades any time they want. Some check them many times a day.

Almost as often as their parents do.

But — isn’t technology a bitch? — until recently, Staples students (and their parents) were frustrated by Home Access Center. That’s the website that works well on a desktop or laptop, but is very hard to view on a mobile device.

Sometimes — this is a true First World problem —  it doesn’t even load. Grrrrr!

Dylan Diamond

Dylan Diamond

Into that frustrating breach rode Dylan Diamond. Only a freshman  — who apparently didn’t get the memo that he shouldn’t start freaking out over grades for a few more months — he developed a free iPhone/iPad app. 

Called “MyHAC” — a clever play on “hacking” and the Home Access Center acronym, while paying homage to Eric Lubin’s very popular “My Staples” schedule-and-time app — it solves every Home Access website problem.

Staples and middle school students — and their parents! — can easily view all grades, class assignments and transcripts. It lists grades from previous marking periods. And a “Remember Me” feature means that (unlike the website) you don’t have to log in each time.

Up next: push notifications, for new assignments.

This is not Dylan’s 1st app. Last year at Coleytown, for a science assignment, he created “MyMoonPhase.” Showing the current moon phase, with a description, it’s been downloaded 3,000 times, all over the world.

The MyHAC screen shows Dylan’s grades. He had a 97.91 in Biology Honors.

The MyHAC screen shows Dylan’s grades. He had a 97.91 in Biology Honors.

“My HAC” has been out for just a few weeks, and its relevance is limited to Westport. But it’s already recorded 600 downloads. (And that’s just for iOS devices. There’s no Android or Windows phone version.)

Dylan — who is also a cross country and track team member, and worked on lighting for Staples Players’ Thoroughly Modern Millie —  is largely self-taught. He took a course in New York last summer on app development, but most of what he knows comes from research on — of course — the internet. He enjoys creating apps, because he has the freedom to do whatever he wants; the process is creative, and the final product helps people.

The toughest parts of creating “My HAC,” Dylan says, were making the app fully compatible with Westport’s servers, and ensuring that all data was secure. Once he figured that out, it took just a couple of weeks to finish.

Dylan can’t use the Westport Schools’ logo. But school officials — and his computer teacher, Nate Dewey — think it’s great. As do all those students checking their grades. at this very moment.

And their parents.

Michael And Mrinal’s “Miles Per Hamburger”

Some apps tell you where to eat.

Others tell you how to burn off the calories you’ve eaten.

But only “Miles Per Hamburger” tells you exactly which restaurant you have to run to, to get rid of the last meal you ingested.

The app is the brainchild of recent Staples graduate Michael Menz, and rising senior Mrinal Kumar.

Mrinal Kumar (left) and Michael Menz, hard at work.

Mrinal Kumar (left) and Michael Menz, hard at work.

The teenagers have been friends since playing on the same summer tennis team during middle school. At Staples they were math team co-captains, and teammates for the Spectacular Student Challenge, Moody’s Mega Math Challenge and Science Bowl. They’ve also competed in national math competitions.

“Miles Per Hamburger” is actually the 2nd app for their partnership (Kumenz Software Solutions, an actual LLC). The first — iFunction — allows users to create and use their own mathematical functions for everyday life.

The calorie-counting app has much, um, wider appeal.

Choose from 20 fast-food chains...

Choose from 20 fast-food chains…

Users scroll through over 2400 foods at 20 chains (including Westport standbys 5 Guys, Arby’s and McDonald’s). They click on their latest meal — 20 Piece Chicken McNuggets, Egg McMuffin and Apple n Spice Donut, say — and get the frightening result (1510 calories). The app immediately geo-locates another restaurant you can run to, to burn off those 1510 calories.

With a handy map.

The idea came because Michael and Mrinal wanted to combine commercial possibilities with good health. They realized that visual representations, in units people can understand (like miles) resonate far more with users than simply presenting the number of calories in a meal.

When the pair tested the limits of the app by piling on the most calorie-rich meal they could conceive — 5 Guys fries, Big Macs, Whoppers — they were initially directed to a small restaurant in Southern California “1 mile away.” That’s when they realized their coding needed work.

add in your meal...

add in your meal…

So they devised an algorithm that enabled Apple’s map to perform a series of searches, each modified by the ones before it. Otherwise, Apple’s map would simply prioritize the nearest location. In densely populated areas, that’s no good when you’ve got 1510 calories to work off.

Michael and Mrinal field tested the app extensively (hopefully theoretically — without actually ingesting, say, 1510 calories).

The app was accepted by Apple on its 1st submission — no easy feat. It shot into the Top 1000 in the App Store in several countries shortly after release. Feedback (“feed” back?) has been very positive.

...and find out how far you have to run to burn off those calories!

…and find out how far you have to run to burn off those calories!

In a few weeks, Michael heads off to his 1st year at Yale, studying math and computer science. Mrinal enters his final year at Staples.

Meanwhile, Kumenz LLP has more apps in the works. One is a pickup basketball shot clock.

Another will give users a comprehensive data analysis of their driving, utilizing their iPhone’s GPS. It will be the duo’s 1st app that is not free.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, we know. But — thanks to the free “Miles Per Hamburger” app — those who buy a fast-food lunch now know how far they have to run to pay for it.

Welcome To myStaples

Many schools prohibit cell phones.  Administrators fear they’ll be used for games, texting, even cheating.

Staples allows cell phones (though not in class).  They’re a ubiquitous part of life, after all.  A ban won’t eliminate their use; students will simply devise ways around it.

Plus — go figure — they’re plenty helpful.

Senior Eric Lubin took that idea, and made iPhones exponentially more useful.

Eric Lubin, his iPhone and his myStaples app

An experienced app developer — he already has 3 in the iPhone App Store — he spent this summer powering up one of his previous creations, iSHS.

Rechristened myStaples, it’s as versatile as a Swiss Army knife, as easy to use as a doorbell.

And when it’s available on the App Store — hopefully this week — it could become as popular as Flight Control.

A key feature allows students to see their personal daily schedule.  (It’s different each day — not easy to memorize.)   Because the app works off the Staples TV system — which adjusts for special schedules, half days, etc. — it’s always accurate.

A bar at the bottom indicates how much time is left in each period — like for a song or video.  Users can set one-time or permanent reminders (hopefully via vibrate) based on “time remaining.”  For example, students may remind themselves “there’s 30 minutes left in my free period — time to start studying,” while teachers can let themselves know “there are 3 minutes left — time to wrap things up.”

The lunch schedule — always a source of confusion, because it changes based on department and month — is another key feature.

The homework feature is very impressive.  Students simply tap a class, add an assignment, then set a due date.  They can sort their homework by course or due date.  If they check it when it’s done, it’s automatically deleted.

Eric included shortcuts to Blackboard — the school’s course management software — and SnapGrades, a web-based gradebook.

The app is tied to Staples’ TV screens, so the daily announcements are displayed in table view.  That eliminates the need to stand in front of a TV monitor, waiting to see whether there’s a notice that a sports practice is canceled due to bad weather.

Eric tweaked myStaples for iPads, to take advantage of that device’s increased space.  There’s also an iPod version.

Eric considered a social component — the ability to see every other student who shares the same free period, say, or all those taking any section of AP Statistics — but did not have time to include it.

Not that he was slacking — or trying to make money off his app.  Friends have said they’d pay $10 for myStaples — but he’s offering it free.

Perhaps he’ll adapt it for other schools.  After all, Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook for his Harvard college classmates.  Look at him now.

Then again, don’t.

Eric Lubin is a much nicer guy.

(To download Eric’s app, search for “myStaples” in Apple’s App Store, or click on eric.lubin.us/mystaples)