How GDSC students are using their skills to support communities in Ukraine

Posted by Laura Cincera, Program Manager Google Developer Student Clubs, Europe

Revealing character in moments of crisis

The conflict in Ukraine is a humanitarian crisis that presents complex challenges. During this time of uncertainty, communities of student developers are demonstrating extraordinary leadership skills and empathy as they come together to support those affected by the ongoing situation. Student Patricijia Čerkaitė and her Google Developer Student Club (GDSC) community at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands organized Code4Ukraine, an international hackathon that brought diverse groups of over 80 student developers together on March 3-4, 2022, to develop technology solutions to support people affected by the conflict in Ukraine.

Even far from the conflict in the Netherlands, they felt compelled to make an impact. “I have relatives in Ukraine; they live in Crimea,” says Patricijia. “In my childhood, I used to spend summer holidays there, eating ice cream and swimming in the Black Sea.”

Patricijia sitting at desk in black chair looking back and smiling

Patricijia working on the details for Code4Ukraine.

Rushing to help others in need with technology

Time was of the essence. The organizing team in Eindhoven contacted other students, connected with communities near and far, and sprang into action. The team invited Ukrainian Google Developer Expert Artem Nikulchenko to share his technology knowledge and first-hand experience of what is happening in his country. Students discussed issues faced by Ukrainians, reviewed problems citizens faced, and ideated around technology-centric solutions. Feelings of exasperation, frustration, and most importantly, hope became lines of code. Together, students built solutions to answer the call: Code4Ukraine.

Blue and yellow emblem that says Code 4 Ukraine

Then, gradually, through a collaborative effort, problem solving, and hours of hard work, the winners of the Code4Ukraine Hackathon emerged: Medicine Warriors, a project built by a diverse, cross-cultural group of undergraduate students and IT professionals from Ukraine, Poland, and Georgia, aiming to address the insulin shortage in Ukraine. The project gathers publicly available data from Ukrainian government notices on insulin availability across Ukraine and presents it in an easily readable way.

Photograph of the Medicine Warriors application design

Photograph of the Medicine Warriors application design

Helping: at the heart of their community

One member of the winning team is the GDSC chapter lead at the National Technical University of Ukraine Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, Ekaterina Gricaenko. “In Ukraine, there is a saying: ‘друг пізнається в біді,’ which translates to, ‘you will know who your friends are when the rough times arrive,’” says Ekaterina. “And now, I can say that the GDSC community is definitely on my family list.”

Photograph of Ekaterina Gricaenko, GDSC Lead

Ekaterina Gricaenko, GDSC Lead, Kyiv Polytechnic Institute

The Code4Ukraine initiative’s goal of bringing others together to make an impact offers a prime example of what the Google Developer Student Clubs (GDSC) program aims to achieve: empowering student developers in universities to impact their communities through technology.

Reflecting on her experience leading the Kyiv GDSC chapter, Ekaterina says, “I started my journey with GDSC as a Core Team member, and during that time, I fell in love with our community, goals, and key concepts. Then, I decided to become a lead, to share my enthusiasm and support students as they pursue their professional dreams.

The Kyiv GDSC has organized over 18 workshops, written over 200 articles, run multiple study groups, and reached over a thousand followers on social media. “It’s incredible to realize how far we have come,” Ekaterina says.

A visual collage displays multiple activities organized by GDSC KPI

A visual collage displays multiple activities organized by GDSC KPI, led by Ekaterina Gricaenko.

Getting involved in your community

Through efforts like Code4Ukraine and other inspiring solutions like the 2022 Solution Challenge, students globally are giving communities hope as they tackle challenges and propose technical solutions. By joining a GDSC, students can grow their knowledge in a peer-to-peer learning environment and put theory into practice by building projects that solve for community problems and make a significant impact.

Photo of students in class in the upper right hand corner with a sign in the center that says Become a leader at your university

Learn more about Google Developer Student Clubs

If you feel inspired to make a positive change through technology, applications for GDSC leads for the upcoming 2022-2023 academic year are now open. Students can apply at goo.gle/gdsc-leads. If you’re passionate about technology and are ready to use your skills to help your student developer community, then you should consider becoming a Google Developer Student Clubs Lead!

We encourage all interested students to apply here and submit their applications as soon as possible. The applications in Europe will be open until 31st May 2022.

GDSC India’s Android Study Jams Boost Student Career Outcomes

Posted by Tanvi Somani, Program Manager – Regional Lead, Google Developer Student Clubs, Google Developer Relations India

photo of green Android logo

Android Study Jams, hosted by Google Developer Student Clubs (GDSC) chapters across the globe and in India, leverage peer-to-peer teaching to train a new generation of student Android developers. The program aims to help student developers build their careers and put them on a solid path towards earning an Associate Android Developers Certification. Three students from the GDSC community in India, Amsavarthan Lv, Rishi Balamurugan, and Sanjay S. went the extra kilometer to earn their certifications.

Meet the newly certified Android developers

“From childhood onward, I was inspired by my brother to learn to program. He’s also a certified Android developer,” says Amsavarthan Lv, the GDSC Lead at the Chennai Institute of Technology and a full-stack web and mobile developer. “I used to be amazed by seeing the code and information on his output screen. Over time, I started exploring tech, and I chose my career as a full-stack web and mobile developer.”

Rishi Balamurugan’s father introduced him to coding, and he eventually built an application for his dad’s company. A member of GDSC Shiv Nadar University from Bangalore, Rishi was the facilitator for the Android Study Jams on his campus.

Sanjay S. mused he didn’t like technology at first, but a friend introduced him to Android with Java through an online course, which changed the course of his career. Now, he’s a pre-final-year engineering student, specializing in Android and full-stack development, at Sri Ramakrishna Engineering College – Coimbatore Tamil Nadu.

Photo of man in red shirt named Amsavarthan Lv Photo of man in plaid blue shirt named  Rishi Balamurugan Photo of man in black and white checkered shirt named Sanjay S

(Pictured from left to right) Amsavarthan Lv, Rishi Balamurugan, and Sanjay S. each recently earned a certification in Android Development.

Leveling up Android development skills

These three newly certified Android developers completed the program with comprehensive Android development skills and the confidence and preparation to build a career in Android development.

“As an Android developer, I have taken several webinars and workshops through GDSC and other campus programs,” Amsavarthan says. “The course and the content provided in Android Study Jams was a piece of cake for getting started as an Android developer. It had everything from creating basic layouts to implementing a local database.”

“After learning the fundamentals, I heard about this certification and started to prepare,” says Sanjay. “I thought this would help me stand out in my career and boost my confidence.”

After receiving mentorship from the Google Play team on Google Play and Play Academy, the students built simple applications and learned what’s involved to deploy to the Google Play Store.

  • YouTube Thumbnail Search App: A solution for users who just want to browse thumbnails and not play the videos shown in the YouTube search list, the application leverages LiveData and ViewModel to handle the UI Logic. Screenshots
  • SimplDo: This application keeps track of your todo list, with options to add, check, update, and delete items. List items are displayed using Recycler view and stored using View Model and Live Data; Jetpack navigation is used to handle navigation between the fragments and pass data. Screenshots
  • Alert’em: An emergency alerter with local helpline numbers, this app’s “Emergency Alerting System” sends an SMS containing the recent call log of the user to their emergency contacts. It uses a flexible constraint layout and a Jetpack Navigation to switch between different screens. Screenshots

Building confidence and career readiness

Open laptop with live Android Study Jam session on the screen

Over 65.5 thousand developers participated in 800+ Android Study Jams in India and emerged with new skills from the Android Basics in Kotlin Course and Appscale academy sessions. Program facilitators could earn Google Developer Profile badges and become Android Educators.

“Android Study Jams helped me to try out new libraries such as Jetpack, DataStore, and WorkManager and showed me how to work in a step-by-step manner,” says Sanjay. “It was organized in such a way that even a beginner can start learning Android easily.”

Amsavarthan, Rishi, and Sanjay took the initiative to gain the skills to pursue employment as full-time Android developers after graduation, and as the program continues, more Android Study Jams participants will be on their way to bright futures.

How to join a Google Developer Student Club and lead or attend an Android Study Jam:

  • If you’re a university student interested in opportunities to learn about Google developer products, including Android Study Jams, sign up for a Google Developer Student Club near you here.
  • Want to make a similar impact on your campus? Sign up to become a Google Developer Student Clubs Lead here.

Google Developer Student Club 2022 Lead applications are open!

Posted by Erica Hanson, Global Program Manager, Google Developer Student Clubs

Image that says become a leader at your university with a photo of students smiling in the top right hand corner

Hey, student developers! If you’re passionate about programming and are ready to use your technology skills to help your community, then you should become a Google Developer Student Clubs Lead!

The application form for the upcoming 2022-2023 academic year is NOW OPEN. Get started at goo.gle/gdsc-leads.

Want to know more? Learn more about the program below.

What are Google Developer Student Clubs?

Google Developer Student Clubs (GDSC) are university based community groups for students interested in Google developer technologies. With clubs hosted in 110+ countries around the world, students from undergraduate and graduate programs with an interest in leading a community are welcome. Together, students learn the latest in Machine Learning, Android App Development, Google Cloud Platform, Flutter, and so much more.

By joining a GDSC, students grow their knowledge in a peer-to-peer learning environment and put theory to practice by building solutions for local businesses and their community.

How will I improve my skills?

As a Google Developer Student Club Lead you will have the chance to…

  • Gain mentorship from Google.
  • Join a global community of leaders.
  • Practice by sharing your skills.
  • Help students grow.
  • Build solutions for real life problems.

How can I find a Google Developer Student Club near me?

Google Developer Student Clubs are now in 110+ countries with 1500+ groups. Find a club near you or learn how to start your own, here.

When do I need to submit the Application form?

We encourage students to submit their forms as soon as possible. You can learn more about your region’s application deadlines, here. Make sure to learn more about our program criteria.

Get Started

From working to solve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to combating climate issues, Google Developer Student Club leads are learning valuable coding skills while making a true difference.

As Leads from clubs around the world put it:

  • Lead from Indonesia – “The best way to learn to be a leader is to be a leader itself, and being a GDSC Lead is the best way to do that.”
  • Lead from United Kingdom – “It’s an experience that challenges you to critically think about some decisions and come up with creative and innovative new approaches for things that you thought you know about leadership.”
  • Lead from Uganda – “Becoming a GDSC lead has been an amazing opportunity to learn, engage and meet different new people in my life. It was instrumental in my career development.”

We can’t wait to see what our next group of Google Developer Student Club leads will accomplish this year. Join the fun and get started, here.

*Google Developer Student Clubs are student-led independent organizations, and their presence does not indicate a relationship between Google and the students’ universities.

Students in LATAM come together for continent-wide tech conference

Posted by Paco Solsona, Regional Lead LATAM

A continental community of coders

Growing up, many students across Latin America watched eagerly as the technology in their cities became more advanced and opportunities to create the future expanded. For some, computers and web technologies presented untold potential. Still, excitement about doing right by their communities was all at the heart of it all. Now, a forward-looking group of university students from 27 different Latin American nations and Google Developer Student Clubs (GDSC) have formed a continent-wide network to chart a course forward for their continent. They are building a community of Spanish-speaking Latin American student developers that support each other, help foster leadership skills, and bring more opportunities to student developers in the region.

Teaming up to build skills and teach other student developers

In November 2021, this regional coalition of students came together to host a continent-wide LATAM conference, a two-day student conference (the team planned and executed it in just two weeks). The event featured ten speakers from Spanish-speaking Latin American countries and taught students about different developer technologies. Attendees learned about machine learning, automating processes using data pipelines, leveraging react to upload landing pages to Firebase, and building mobile applications with Firebase and React Native. 300 people attended the conference over two days, and the conference recordings have attracted hundreds of views on YouTube.

Screenshot of a group of GDSC leads video chatting during a live event

“We’re coming from a less developed region. We grew up seeing other countries that were more technologically advanced. Now, developers from Latin America are more confident that they have the skills to implement projects, produce new things, and bring advancement to the continent.” – Maria Agustina Cuello (Chichi)

Working together with purpose

Through working together on the conference, the organizers of LATAM conference know Latin American youth have a bright future. They are excited by the opportunity to use the power of technology and connectivity to change the world.

Screenshot of a group of women GDSC leads video chatting during a live event

Luis Eduardo, Lead GDSC UTP (Perú), says it felt amazing to be part of the LATAM conference: “being able to meet students from other countries with the same desire to work for the community was wonderful. Knowing that, despite being thousands of miles away, there was no impediment to being able to work as an organized team. This is what makes this family unique.”

Screenshot of a group of GDSC members video chatting during a live event

“LATAM conference was the opportunity to show that wherever we are, we can help others, and you will always find people with similar ideas,” says Francisco Imanol Suarez, Lead GDSC UNPSJB (Argentina).

Solution Challenge preparations

The group is now hosting events to teach student developers new skills and prepare them for the 2022 Solution Challenge, a global contest where students from around the world are invited to solve for one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals using Google technologies.

In preparing their communities to build projects, the group plans to activate the countries and regions in Latin America. The students aim to expose each other to multiple technologies in the field and plan to host theme weeks for the Solution Challenge, like a Firebase week, a UX/UI week, and a Flutter Festival.

Students across the GDSC LATAMs are forming teams for the Solution Challenge. Some are local, coming from a single university, while others are broader, like students in Argentina working with students from Mexico. “A few months ago, no one knew how many people we would help take their first steps in the world of development. Let’s hope this community continues to grow to be able to show that amazing things can be done in LATAM,” says Luis Eduardo, Lead GDSC UTP (Perú).

Screenshot of a GDSC student giving a presentation on Google technology via video chat

“I’m grateful to be part of this community and work with amazing team members who are so eager to work together and do activities. We want to bring all the opportunities we can to Latin American students, and gender and language are not a barrier,” says Cuello.

What’s next for GDSC LATAM

The members of GDSC LATAM plan to continue hosting collaborative events for the community such as Google Cloud Machine Learning bootcamp, a hackathon, and a 2022 student conference and related events with other student communities. The group holds Android and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) study jams, publishes a podcast, and hosts networking events to help reach more students, create networking opportunities, and expand each university’s GDSC. Eventually, they hope to positively impact the region by encouraging budding developers to build new technologies in Latin America.

If this inspires you, sign up for the Solution Challenge and submit a project by March 31, 2022 at goo.gle/solutionchallenge and join a Google Developer Student Club at your college or university.

Check out GDSC LATAM on social media: Twitter | FB | YouTube Channel | Instagram

How a student leader cultivates on-campus diversity and leadership in Australia

Posted by Matthew Ranocchiari, Developer Relations Community Manager, Australia & New Zealand

Banner image shows Milindi Kodikara smiling with text that reads How a student leader cultivates on-campus diversity and leadership in Australia

To get familiar with her local community, International student Milindi Kodikara, originally from Sri Lanka, joined almost every tech club at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. She immediately identified an opportunity to establish a more diverse and inclusive tech club to prepare students to work in the tech industry. Using both her instincts and passion for community building, she set out on a mission to re-establish a Google Developer Student Club (GDSC) at RMIT University.

“I applied to become the GDSC Lead at RMIT University to create a better, brighter, and stronger community where our students (regardless of age, gender, sexuality, or race) can thrive, learn new skills, and enjoy their time with new friends,” Kodikara says.

Preparing students for tech careers

After starting the club, Milindi sought the advice of Matthew Ranocchiari (Google Developer Relations Community Manager for the region) who then suggested Milindi form a team, set goals, and plan activities for the semester. Milindi assembled a team of seven students hailing from Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. They brought a mix of technical and non-technical backgrounds. Each shared an eagerness to learn about technology, help other students build projects, and develop leadership skills.

“ I was looking for a team of passionate individuals to make a change at RMIT University.”
Screenshot from a Google Video Chat shows the GDSC core team at RMIT University. They are all smiling at the camera

Social media officer Chaamudi Kodikara, helped set up the club’s various channels, which currently engage 400+ students every day. Design experts Isaac (Yi Jie) Chuah, Jacqueline Ann Lim, and Andrea Gocheco; event managers Sheryl Mantik and Kowsar Rahman Sadit; and a tech expert Prottay Karim each round out the group.

Planning a “Study Jam-packed” semester

When asking students what they wanted from the new club, most students said they were seeking an opportunity to learn how to land a tech job through networking, get a sense of what tech jobs are like day-to-day, and explore various technologies. Most of all, they wanted to feel empowered. With these goals in mind, the team planned multiple events per month, including an inaugural virtual Games Night, a series of lightning talks (called Geeky Google Tech Talks), and Cloud Study Jams.

“As Cloud is already a field that is in high demand, we thought our community could benefit from learning this for their own career success,” explains Milindi.

Embracing school spirit and multiple learning opportunities

To ensure students would be prepared for workshops on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and robotics, the club held beginner-friendly programs that introduced students to the topics. They launched these in collaboration with RMIT’s Society for Women in Information Technology, RMIT’s Programming Club and additional partners and sponsors. The club’s HackVision hackathon, featured games, mentoring sessions, and workshops on topics such as public speaking, pitching ideas, ideation, UX/UI design, and software architecture.

With a wide variety of workshops that drew many attendees, the events and facilitators helped students with their technical queries throughout the semester. Some facilitators such as industry professional Thomas Frantz, Google Chrome Engineer, Jakub Młynarczyk, and Patrick Haralabidis of the Melbourne TensorFlow User Group stay connected with the students. Their connections and willingness to help solidifies the importance of mentorship. For example, one instructor led a machine learning workshop, while another one walked students through the complex algorithm-related questions asked during technical job interviews. Milindi herself led a live robotics demo where she programmed Nao Bots to dance to music and showed other students how to program the robots.

“These workshops helped them expand their tech skills to unexplored areas and help them feel confident at interviews. Our speakers showed students what is possible with these new technologies and machines. The time and effort spent on this event was truly rewarding seeing how much all the participants learned and experienced,” Milindi says.

Collage style image made up of images of GDSC RMIT members, memes, emojis, and graphics created by the group

Representation and professional development

Professional development remains important too, notes Milindi. “We here at GDSC RMIT have quite a diverse community, and we wanted to make sure our community was well prepared for the hardships of finding success.” She says, “as a female international student, I’ve had to apply to hundreds of companies when I was looking for internships, so I understand the struggle of applying for jobs, especially the frustration that comes with being rejected, in most cases, for reasons beyond your control, like visa issues.”

In this spirit, the club collaborated with RMIT’s Society for Women in Information Technology to hold an event called “ROAR!” to empower female and underrepresented students. The event included an #IamRemarkable workshop with Googlers. Additionally, the club encouraged students to develop their resumes and LinkedIn profiles and offered a Personal Branding workshop, giving students multiple opportunities to showcase their talents and abilities.

Preparing a diverse student body for tech careers

Milindi expresses gratitude for having the opportunity to reinvigorate the community around RMIT University’s Google Developer Student Club. She relishes the ability to bring diverse students from many countries and gender identities together in the service of developing new skills, learning from each other, and ultimately landing jobs in the fast-growing tech industry.

“My amazing Core Team and I have given GDSC at RMIT University a new chapter and made a safe space for tech nerds of all ages, races, genders, and sexualities to feel welcome to be themselves and strive to be successful,” Milindi says. “I am grateful for this fantastic opportunity to serve our community and help make the world a better place.”

For more information on this GDSC chapter visit the site here. If you’re a student and would like to join a Google Developer Student Club community, look for a chapter near you here, or visit the program page to learn more about starting one in your area.

Let’s Build Solutions! Solution Challenge 2022: Solve for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals Using Google Technologies

Posted by Erica Hanson, Global Senior Program Manager, Google Developer Student Clubs

Solution Challenge 2022 banner image

Have you ever thought about building an application or tool that solves a problem your community faces? Or perhaps you’ve felt inspired to build something that can help improve the lives of those you care about. The year ahead brings more opportunities for helping each other and giving back to our communities.

With that in mind, we invite students around the world to join the Google Developer Student Clubs 2022 Solution Challenge! Where students from around the world are invited to solve for one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals using Google technologies.

About the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

Created by the United Nations in 2015 to be achieved by 2030, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon by all 193 United Nations Member States aim to end poverty, ensure prosperity, and protect the planet.

If you’re new to the Solution Challenge, it is an annual competition that invites university students to develop solutions for real world problems using one or more Google products or platforms.

This year, see how you can use Android, Firebase, TensorFlow, Google Cloud, Flutter, or any of your favorite Google technologies to promote employment for all, economic growth, and climate action, by building a solution for one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

What winners of the Solution Challenge receive

Participants will receive specialized prizes at different stages:

  • Top 50 teams – Receive customized mentorship from Googlers and experts to take solutions to the next level, a branded T-shirt, and a certificate.
  • Top 10 finalists – Receive additional mentorship, a swag box, and the opportunity to showcase solutions to Googlers and developers all around the world during the virtual 2022 Solution Challenge Demo Day live on YouTube.
  • Contest Finalists – In addition to the swag box, each individual from the additional seven recognized teams will receive a Cash Prize of $1,000 per student. Winnings for each qualifying team will not exceed $4,000.
  • Top 3 winners – In addition to the swag box, each individual from the top 3 winning teams will receive a Cash Prize of $3,000 and a feature on the Google Developers Blog. Winnings for each qualifying team will not exceed $12,000.

How to get started on the Solution Challenge

There are four main steps to joining the Solution Challenge and getting started on your project:

  1. Register at goo.gle/solutionchallenge and join a Google Developer Student Club at your college or university. If there is no club at your university, you can join the closest one through the event platform.
  2. Select one or more of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals to solve for.
  3. Build a solution using Google technology.
  4. Create a demo and submit your project by March 31, 2022.

Resources from Google for Solution Challenge participants

Google will provide Solution Challenge participants with various resources to help students build strong projects for their contest submission.

  • Live online sessions with Q&As
  • Mentorship from Google, Google Developer Experts, and the Google Developer Student Club community
  • Curated codelabs designed by Google Developers
  • Access to Design Sprint guidelines developed by Google Ventures
  • and more!

When are winners announced?

Once all the projects are submitted by the March 31st, 2022 deadline, judges will evaluate and score each submission from around the world using the criteria listed on the website.

From there, winning solutions will be announced in three rounds.

Round 1 (April): The Top 50 teams will be announced.

Round 2 (June): After the top 50 teams submit their new and improved solutions, 10 finalists will be announced.

Round 3 (July): In the finale, the top 3 grand prize winners will be announced live on YouTube during the 2022 Solution Challenge Demo Day.

With a passion for building a better world, savvy coding skills, and a little help from Google technology, we can’t wait to see the solutions students create.

Learn more and sign up for the 2022 Solution Challenge, here.

From Idea to Impact: How a team from Solution Challenge launched an environmentally-focused social enterprise

Posted by Merve Isler, Regional Developer Relations Community Manager, Turkey

Banner with image of Aysu Keçeci, member of Google Student Developer Clubs chapter at at Bogazici University in Istanbul

Some challenges affect everyone regardless of borders or nationality, and combating climate issues is no different. Aysu Keçeci, a student in Turkey with an avowed reverence for the sea, found herself increasingly distressed by the growing amount of plastic in the world’s oceans. She notes, “As an Aegean, the seas are a big part of my life, Unfortunately, I have grown up observing that our waters are polluted daily, and I know that plastics now make up 80% of marine garbage, and if we don’t take precautions, there will be more plastic in our seas than fish in 2050. That’s why plastic pollution has always been a problem I wanted to address.”

As part of a global community, Google Developer Student Clubs (GDSCs) members are empowered to make an impact on the issues that matter both on the global and local scales. She decided to join the 2021 Solution Challenge, and took part in a local hackathon organized by the GDSC Solution Challenge Incubation Program. She and other GDSC members at Bogazici University on her team chose to create an app to encourage plastic recycling, never guessing it would lead to mentorship, guidance, and tools to launch an environmentally-focused social enterprise start-up.

Choosing the features and functions

When building the app, the team leveraged Flutter for its cross-platform advantages and used other Google tools such as Firebase, Firestore, Cloud, Maps, Fonts, and Analytics. In the app, users locate and open dedicated recycling bins by scanning a QR code or using a smartwatch or wristband. They can earn “coins” based on the amount of plastic they recycle and by engaging in challenges. Meanwhile, the app, called WE, displays tangible benefits to the environment from the users’ recycling efforts.

Encouraging behavior change with gamification

Aysu acknowledges that designing an app is one thing–bringing it into reality is another. Keçeci shares, “in real product development, user experience, ease of learning, and convenience become more critical than when you are designing a prototype.” To drive adoption, the WE App team chose gamification as a framework for the recycling app, looking to engage and motivate users by adding competition, social interaction, and feedback into the UI and help make recycling easy and fun. Aysu was particularly inspired by entrepreneur Colin Huang, who integrated gamification into Pinduoduo, an e-commerce company that encourages user collaboration.

From idea to impact

After three intense days of working at a feverish pace on little sleep, Aysu and the team presented their idea–which won the hackathon! The WE app then got selected as one of the top 50 projects in the Solution Challenge (with the support of Solution Challenge Incubation Program), landing the team special mentorship sessions with Google developers. This support on many levels led to their acceptance in one of Turkey’s top incubators: İTÜ Çekirdek İncubation Center, which offered a working space and exposure to the center’s network of companies and entrepreneurs. The project was also accepted into the Arya WIP Investment Preparation Acceleration Program, which supports women entrepreneurs, earning the team even more credibility and traction.

Perseverance makes all the difference

Aysu acknowledges that working with a small team of three developers can present new problems and opportunities every day–but support from Google mentors, jury members, and GDSC helps. “It’s very bumpy, but it’s been a journey that we’ve learned a lot about and enjoyed,” she says. The team is currently working with Borusan Mannesmann, one of the largest industrial companies in Turkey, to provide the app and bins to employees. They’re also competing in the semifinals of the İTÜ Çekirdek İncubation Center’s Big Bang Startup Challenge and talking with other potential corporate partners.

Looking towards the future

The team is already thinking about WE’s next stage. She and the other founders plan to redesign the WE bins to look more stylish and start producing simple products from the plastics collected, perhaps by partnering with innovative companies around the world that value sustainability.

“I’ve actually seen that people value living in a sustainable world. So it was surprising and gratifying for me to realize that they were ready to do something about it and take action because even people who did not recycle in the old status quo adapted very quickly.”

As she considers the progress she’s made so far, Aysu credits the GDSC’s culture of innovation, support, and feedback for playing a big part in WE’s creation and success. “You can quickly get involved in a community,” she says, “and thus you have a better opportunity to pursue things that excite you.”

Learn more about the activities and opportunities GDSCs offer and how to get involved.

Register your team for the Solution Challenge in January and make an impact.

How a Student Leader Promotes Neurodiversity Awareness in Brazil and Beyond

Posted by Rodrigo Hirooka, Regional Lead for Brazil Developer Communities

Banner with image of João Victor Ipirajá, lead of the Google Student Developer Club at the Federal Institute of Science and Technology of Ceará

Perceiving that one is not like everyone else can be painful. Yet, the experience can also be illuminating. As a child in Brazil, João Victor Ipirajá, lead of the Google Student Developer Club (GDSC) at the Federal Institute of Science and Technology of Ceará (IFCE), knew he was different. He often felt overwhelmed by physical sensations and missed social cues. When he was eventually diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, he was actually relieved. Far from being a limitation, the realization gave him a new perspective on his intellectual strengths—such as his ability to perceive mathematical concepts in a highly visual way and his capacity for logical thinking and computer programming. “I was reborn to a full life shortly after I received this diagnosis,” he said in a video he made about his experiences as a person with ASD.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1 out of every 160 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Yet despite how relatively common ASD is, the wide diversity of the condition and misunderstandings about neurodiversity can still make it difficult to diagnose.

This newfound understanding of how his mind works helped guide him on his educational path as well as career direction. Instead of attending a traditional high school, which he felt would not play to his natural talents and strengths, João decided to study at IFCE, a technical college that also offered a high school program. There, he learned computer science and computer engineering, picking up new programming languages and honing his developer skills.

But most importantly, he felt he had “discovered his place.” His success at IFCE solving problems, using new tools, and working successfully with others soon outweighed his fears about meeting new people and not fitting in. The experience of finding a community convinced him of the need to encourage others to find theirs–and to help build them as well.

Joining GDSC and expanding awareness of neurodiversity

After high school, João decided to continue at IFCE for college to focus on computer engineering, where he learned new programming languages and tools like TensorFlow and Flutter. He also joined IFCE’s GDSC chapter, which further exposed him to new people and ideas. “It’s an honor to be part of this program, meeting people from all over the world and improving my speaking skills, especially in English,” he says. “For me, it’s something magical. I learned so much.”

At the same time, João was beginning to recognize the lack of understanding about neurodiversity in Brazil, even among technical audiences and employers in general. “Some people think we are crazy or we’re unable to do big projects,” he says. Even “good” stereotypes can be harmful–for example, many neurodiverse people have an ability to “hyperfocus” and work or study uninterrupted for hours on end. “People think it’s a superpower,” he says, but such extreme periods of concentration can also be unhealthy and lead to burnout.

Planting the seeds of change with GDSC events and projects

As the IFCE GDSC lead, João decided to concentrate his efforts on expanding awareness of neurodiversity, as well as other types of diversity—sexual, racial, religious, etc.—to help others find the sense of freedom and belonging he has experienced. “Many people don’t feel free to be whoever they want to be,” he says.

The chapter’s efforts include planning speaker sessions with diversity activists and specialists from the community, creating social media content in partnership with IFCE, creating workshops with other Brazilian GDSC chapters, and making diversity a priority when choosing core positions on the team.

He recently spoke at a DevFest event on the topic of “Understanding the autistic spectrum universe,” in which he explained the range of characteristics and abilities autistic people can display. He also wants to do more speaking events in Portuguese to break stereotypes about autism in Brazil specifically. “It’s just a student club, but we are trying to deconstruct stereotypes and prejudice that are so culturally strong in Brazil,” he says.

Cultivating understanding and acceptance in Brazil and beyond

Ultimately, João feels that providing more opportunities and platforms for diverse people will help others. As the community continues to come together, he might be able to help those who have that same sense of difference João remembers having as a child. João and others on his GDSC team especially hope that these efforts will advance a greater understanding around how to elevate and celebrate members of marginalized groups in his home country. However, his goals go beyond mere acceptance: he notes that people who feel more comfortable about who they are also feel more confident to fully participate in all aspects of society. People with diverse abilities and characteristics offer unique skills and perspectives that can also translate into advantages, especially among technical audiences and employers.

“It’s very important for people to have this opportunity to share their stories, to have these environments to make people understand,” he says. “For me, it’s very important, and I’m very honored.”

How a Developer Student Lead Increased Representation in Campus Clubs Through Community

Posted by Kyle Paul, Google Developer Student Club Regional Lead CA & US

Banner with image of Chloe Quijano and text that reads Google Developer Student Clubs University of Toronto

When Chloe Quijano arrived at the University of Toronto to study Applied Sciences, she immediately noticed that few of the professors or teaching assistants in the program looked like her. She noticed a lack of relatable role models online and on social media as well.

Chloe felt strongly about the importance of representation. Whether based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability status, she understood the importance of being able to find relatable role models in her field–and the implications of a lack of diversity. “It holds back the students wishing to go into the field,” she says.

Statistics illustrating the low number of women in computing occupations

Bureau of Labor Statistics findings on women in computing occupations

Worse, she points out, those that do enter technical careers may experience impostor syndrome: “We often downplay the skills we have as developers.”

Discovering Google Developer Student Clubs

Data backs up Chloe’s impression about the lack of diversity in tech: According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), women made up only a quarter of the workforce in computing in 2020. Of those, just 3% were African-American, 7% Asian, and 2% Hispanic.

Determined to find a way to combat these trends, Chloe decided to look for a supportive community where she could help make a difference. While searching for a technology club where she could meet and learn from others, she stumbled across the university’s Google Developer Student Club. Noticing that the club was soliciting applications to serve as a lead, she decided to apply—and got the post!

Chloe quickly took steps to advance the group’s mission: to empower all students in technology. To help students like her connect with leaders and role models from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, she spearheaded the effort to organize the first-ever DSC Women in Tech Conference.

Held last March, the two-day virtual event featured 13 speakers from a range of backgrounds—including CEOs, Google employees, and recent graduates who landed internships and positions at prominent tech companies. Topics included charting your own path in tech, landing that first job, going the entrepreneurship route, and leveraging the power of a personal narrative. Hands-on workshops included a day-long hackathon challenge focused on redesigning a website to be more accessible and user-friendly for senior citizens. Ultimately, the conference drew more than 250 attendees from around the world, including South Korea, Morocco, Brazil, and China.

Expanding the Range of GDSC Events

After the conference’s success, Chloe continued organizing initiatives and programs for her GDSC group. She helped start a monthly tech meetup for women students, and a weekly online series highlighting potential careers paths, and featuring tech leaders as guests. In just under eight months, the chapter hosted 40 events, reaching more than 1700 participants.

Image shows Conference details and workshop titles

Examples of recent GDSC events at the University of Toronto

Chloe understood that greater encouragement and support can have long-term effects—not only while students are in school, but throughout their careers. “Showing more representation in tech greatly increases our confidence, innovation, and performance,” she points out. “Especially in academic environments, having a sense of belonging and community with role models for students to look up to can lead to success in tech together.”

Looking Ahead: Growth, Inspiration, and Connections

Having completed her term as the GDSC lead for the University of Toronto earlier this year, Chloe says the experience and her continuing involvement with the group has been instrumental in making her the student developer she is today. “I’ve been able to connect with student leaders globally from diverse backgrounds, academically, professionally, and culturally. It’s inspiring to work alongside students who have unique perspectives.”

Such connections have become especially meaningful as she takes steps toward her post-graduation career, such as her first internship last summer, where she worked closely with several women software engineers at Microsoft. “Getting to work with them was really exciting and motivating,” she says.

Chloe can already see how her GDSC experience will support her professional development while also inspiring others to join the field. “I’m always going to be looking to become a better leader,” she says. “And then maybe other students like me who are looking for someone who looks like them, they’ll see me and think, ‘Yes, it’s possible.’”

Ultimately, Chloe says, helping others brings its own rewards: “Success takes care of those who create success for others.”

If you’re a student and would like to join a Google Developer Student Club community, look for a chapter near you here.

From Beginner to Machine Learning Instructor In A Year

Posted by Salim Abid, MENA Regional Lead, Developer Relations

Banner that reads Google Developer Student Clubs, Misr University for Science and Technology (MUST). Includes overhead image of person coding on a laptop

Yara Elkady, Google Developer Student Club (GDSC) Lead, can trace her passion for tech all the way back to a single moment. She was sitting in computer class when her middle school teacher posed a question to the class:

“Did you know that you can create apps and games like the ones that you spend so much time on?”

It was a simple question, but it was enough to plant the seed that would define the trajectory of Yara’s career. Following in the footsteps of so many beginners before her, Yara did a Google search to find out more about creating apps. She didn’t realize it at the time, but Yara had just taken her first steps down the path to becoming a developer.

Knowing that she wanted to pursue tech further, Yara went to college at Misr University for Science and Technology (MUST) in Giza, Egypt to study computer science. In her second year, she had begun reading more about artificial intelligence. Yara was blown away by the potential of training a machine to make decisions on its own. With machine learning, she could pursue more creative ideas that went beyond what was possible with traditional programming. As Yara explains, “It felt like magic”. Still, she felt lost like any beginner interested in AI.

Enter Google Developer Student Clubs

Yara first discovered the GDSC chapter at MUST through her school’s social media page. For the entirety of her second year, Yara attended workshops and saw firsthand how GDSC events could leave an impact on students aspiring to become developers. With help from Google Developer Student Clubs, Yara was able to grow her skills as a developer and connect with peers who shared her interests. At the end of the year, Yara applied to be a Lead so that she could help more students engage with the community. Not too long after, Yara was accepted as a GDSC Lead for the 2020-2021 season!

A classroom of people attend a GDSC MUST speaker session

A GDSC MUST speaker session

As part of becoming a GDSC Lead, Yara enrolled in the MENA DSC Leads Academy to receive hands-on training in various Google technologies. Despite being only the first time the Academy had ever been hosted (both in person and virtually), 100+ Leads from 150 GDSC chapters attended over the course of six weeks. Yara applied to the Machine Learning track and was chosen for the program. During the course, Yara mastered advanced machine learning concepts, including classical ML models, deep learning, data manipulation, and TensorFlow training. She also got to work with other Leads on advanced machine learning projects, helping her gain even more confidence in her ML knowledge.

Soon after passing the program, Yara collaborated with the GDSC Leads she met during the course to host a one-month ML track to pass on the knowledge they had learned to the GDSC community. Through the sessions she hosted, Yara was contacted by BambooGeeks, a startup that creates training opportunities for local tech aspirants to help them become industry-ready. Yara was offered a job as a machine learning instructor, and could now create sessions for the largest audience of trainees she’d ever worked with.

The road to certification

Yara didn’t realize it yet, but even more opportunities were headed her way. She learned from the GDSC MENA program manager that GDSC Leads would have the opportunity to take the TensorFlow Certification exam, if they wished to take it. It wouldn’t be easy, but Yara knew she had all the resources she needed to succeed. She wasted no time and created a study group with other GDSC Leads working to get certified. Together, Yara and her fellow Leads pulled endless all-nighters over the next few months so that they could skill up for the exam and support each other through the arduous study process. They also worked with Elyes Manai, a ML Google Developer Expert, who gave them an overview of the exam and recommended resources that would help them pass.

Thanks to those resources, support from her peers, and tons of hard work, Yara passed the exam and received her TensorFlow certification! And she wasn’t the only one. 11 other MENA GDSC Leads also passed the exam to receive their certifications. Yara and her study partners were the first women in Egypt to be featured in the TensorFlow Certificate Network, and Yara became one of 27 people in Africa to receive the TensorFlow Developer Certificate!

Image of Yara Elkady's TensorFlow Developer Certificate

Yara’s TensorFlow Developer Certificate

When Yara looks back at how she was able to fast track from beginner to certified machine learning developer in just a year, she credits Google Developer Student Clubs with:

  • Offering advanced Machine Learning training
  • Fostering connections with other Leads to host study jams
  • Providing guidance from machine learning GDEs
  • TensorFlow certification exam prep
  • Exposure to opportunities that enabled her to inspire others
  • Endless community support

The truth is, students like Yara make Google Developer Student Clubs special by sharing their knowledge with the community and building a support system with their peers that extends far beyond the classroom.

On the importance of community, Yara says it best:

“Reaching your goals is a much more enjoyable process when you have someone with you on the same journey, to share your ups and downs, and push you to do more when you feel like quitting. Your success becomes their success and that gives more meaning to your accomplishments.”

If you’re a student who is ready to join your own Google Developer Student Club community, find one near you here.

Meet the students coding their way to a better world

Posted by Erica Hanson, Global Program Manager, Google Developer Student Clubs

Student headshots from the top 10 finalist teams of the Google Developer Student Clubs Solution Challenge

What have we learned from the challenges that we’ve faced over the past year and continue to face today? How absolutely vital it is to protect our planet and the people living on it.

Enter the Solution Challenge, our annual contest inviting the global Google Developer Student Clubs (GDSC) community to develop solutions to real world problems utilizing Google technologies. This year’s Solution Challenge asks participants to solve for one or more of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, intended to promote employment for all, economic growth, and climate action.

The top 50 semi-finalists and the top 10 finalists were announced earlier this year. It all comes down to Demo Day on August 26th, where the finalists will present their solutions to Google and developers all around the world, live on YouTube. Here, judges will review their projects, ask questions, and choose the top 3 grand prize winners!

You can RSVP here to be a part of Demo Day, vote for the People’s Choice Award, and watch all the action as it unfolds live. Ahead of the event, get to know the top 10 finalists and their incredible solutions below.

Cameroon – Flow, University of Bamenda

UN Sustainable Goal Addressed: Goal 6: Clean Water & Sanitation

Flow is a mobile app that helps users easily find clean water sources nearby using Google Maps. Selecting a water source location on the map will tell users the name of the location, the status of the water source, and the approximate distance to the water source from the user’s current location. Flow was built with Firebase, Flutter, Google Cloud Platform, and Google Maps Platform. The app was developed by Alouzeh Brandone Mahbuh, Chi Karl Junior, Meh Mbeh Ida Delphine, and Nuikweh Lewis.

“The lack of water and quest for clean water in my community inspired us to select this goal. Our solution is a mobile application which makes use of a ‘live location’ feature to help members in my community easily find clean water sources.”

Canada – Helppier, University of Toronto

UN Sustainable Goals Addressed: Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing, Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities, Goal 11: Sustainable Cities

Helppier is an Android app that creates volunteering opportunities in local neighborhoods. With Helppier, you can volunteer to help out others, request a volunteer, and earn rewards. Unlike traditional volunteering positions with organizations, Helppier fosters a sense of community by allowing people to make a direct impact in their neighborhood. Helppier’s ultimate goal is to make volunteering a regular part of peoples’ daily routines. The Android app was developed using Google Cloud Platform, Firebase, and Cloud Run by James Lee, Janice Cheung, Mohamed Amine Belabbes, and Oluwateleayo Oyekunle.

“With loneliness rates skyrocketing due to COVID, many people are feeling more isolated and in need of help, but may not have anyone in their neighborhood to turn to. Helppier facilitates the opportunity for people to connect with one another through acts of kindness, regardless of who they are or where they came from.”

Egypt – E-Owl, Future Academy

UN Sustainable Goals Addressed: Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing, Goal 4: Quality Education

E-Owl is a virtual education platform that helps professors create virtual meetings, exams, and posts. With E-Owl, students can also check their grades and assignments online. The web application features focus detection and monitors real-time emotion of students to help instructors improve their students’ learning experience. E-Owl was created using Firebase, Google Cloud Platform, and TensorFlow by Ahmed Mostafa Ibrahiem, Kerolos Kamal Botros, Khaled Abdel-Fattah Ahmed, and Mahmoud Said Ramadan Gad.

“Our main target is education and well-being. We are working on how to maintain learners’ attention and motivation in the virtual classrooms and also effectively managing the progress of each student online.”

Germany – SimplAR, Technical University of Munich

UN Sustainable Goals Addressed: Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth, Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

SimplAR is an app that utilizes the power of Natural Language Processing to translate any text (newspapers, books, manuals, etc.) into simplified language just by taking a picture of it. The app is catered towards people with functional illiteracy who sometimes have difficulty comprehending text. SimplAR delivers text following plain language principles that is easy to understand, making reading experiences more accessible for everyone. Almo Sutedjo, Maria Pospelova, Sami Wirtensohn, and Viviana Sutedjo used Flutter and Firebase to develop their app.

“Around 1 in 7 people worldwide have difficulties understanding complicated texts due to functional illiteracy. We want to enable people with functional illiteracy to gain understanding about any text in any form, and therefore giving them the chance to lead a more independent life.”

India – Eye Of God, K. J. Somaiya College of Engineering

UN Sustainable Goals Addressed: Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, & Infrastructure, Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities, Goal 16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions

Eye of God is an app featuring an easy-to-use navigation system that helps people with visual impairment navigate to their destination by themselves without needing the assistance of others. The Eye of God navigation system uses voice feedback through the user’s smartphone which is mounted on a VR Headset, and vibrational feedback through a custom-made waist belt, to guide users in both indoor and outdoor settings. The app is built with Firebase, Flutter, Google Cloud Platform, TensorFlow, and more, by Anish Pawar, Gayatri Vijay Patil, Jatin Nainani, and Priyanka Hotchandani.

“Being blind or visually impaired doesn’t need to mean the loss of independence of getting to and from places. The advancement of technology can make it possible to help people move freely within their environments and get around safely regardless of their amount of vision.”

India – Swaasthy, Chitkara University

UN Sustainable Goals Addressed: Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth

Swaasthy is a medical app made to uplift user health and increase access to healthcare. It contains medicine reminder functionality and the ability to make an SOS call to nearby ambulances, get an appointment with a virtual doc, and more. The team behind the app believes that their all-in-one approach will go a long way towards bringing down the death rate faced by patients in India due to delays in health services. Additionally, Swaasthy promotes education and economic growth by providing first responders with valuable training opportunities when they sign up via the app. Bhavesh Goyal, Himanshu Sharma, Ishan Sharma, and Kushal Bhanot used Flutter and Firebase to bring their idea to life.

“When it comes to saving a life, every millisecond counts! One in 10 patients in India dies on the way to the hospital. And we’re here to change that. We’re Swaasthy! The only health app you’ll ever need. Solving real-life problems isn’t easy, but at the same time, it’s not impossible.”

Indonesia – Game Your Fit, Binus University International

UN Sustainable Goal Addressed: Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing

Game Your Fit is an app that keeps track of your movements in real time using your smartphone’s movement sensors. It promotes exercise and staying active by turning the experience into a game! The app features a variety of aerobic, anaerobic, and calisthenics exercises to target different areas of the user’s body. One of the app’s game modes, CardioCamera, uses Google’s MLKit AI library to detect movements that the user makes. The app is written in Kotlin and connected to a Firebase project, and was developed by Aric Hernando, Jason Christian Hailianto, Jason Jeremy Wijadi, and Monique Senjaya.

“We are interested in creating a solution for target 3.4, which is to reduce mortality from non-communicable diseases and promote mental health. We aim to improve the health of many, specifically teens and young adults, by designing a gamified exercising application experience.”

Philippines – i-RISE, University of the Philippines in the Visayas

UN Sustainable Goals Addressed: Goal 11: Sustainable Cities, Goal 13: Climate Action

Project Island Response and Intervention for Systematic Evacuation, or i-RISE, is a disaster risk management system that aims to bridge the information gap between local government units, disaster risk management offices, and the island communities of Tubigon, Bohol. The app includes tidal and weather information, evacuation warnings, rescue request functionality, climate change education, and more. i-Rise consists of a web app and mobile app, built with Flutter, Cloud Functions, Cloud Firestore, and Firebase. The project was built by Jian Hurl A. Asiado, Joerian E. Gauten, Patricia Marie C. Garcia, and Rex Ronter G. Ruiz.

“The Philippines is one of the world’s most affected countries by climate change as it experiences the most frequent and strongest typhoons and sea level rise. The vision of Project i-RISE is disaster resilience as a national imperative where all Filipinos anywhere in the archipelago are inclusive of growth and are able to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change.”

Singapore – DementiCare, Nanyang Technological University

UN Sustainable Goal Addressed: Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing

DementiCare is an app equipped with a wide range of features to compliment caregiving for people living with dementia. With the app, caregivers can send notices to patients, access discussion forums, create a patient dashboard, and more. A user with dementia can send an SOS, access memories, view family data, and read notes from caregivers. DementiCare includes a simple interface for users living with dementia, and a feature-rich dashboard to help caregivers carry out their responsibilities without relying on any additional software. Aishik Nagar and Ritik Bhatia used Flutter and Firebase to build their app.

“Having personal relations suffering from Dementia and having cared for them several times, we knew firsthand how tough it was for patients and their caregivers to cope with Dementia. Our solution is DementiCare, a mobile application made to reduce, digitize, and revolutionize the barrier to skills, knowledge, and experience required for providing care to patients suffering from Dementia.”

Turkey – QRegister, Middle East Technical University

UN Sustainable Goals Addressed: Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption & Production, Goal 15: Life on Land

QRegister is an app that removes the need for physical paper receipts upon transactions and instead encourages the use of QR codes for users to virtually keep track of all their receipts. The app reduces waste generation by eliminating paper receipts that usually end up as litter. BPA, a chemical often used in thermal receipts, can be absorbed through the skin and has been linked to a number of health concerns. By digitizing receipts, QRegister reduces the chemicals that we’re exposed to daily. QRegister was created with Firebase and Flutter by Alkım Dömeke, Deniz Karakay, Humeyra Bodur, and Murat Kaş.

“QRegister wants to raise awareness regarding the wastefulness of paper receipt production. Our team developed an environmentally friendly smart register that eliminates paper receipts and effortlessly stores purchase data.”

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Feeling inspired and ready to learn more about Google Developer Student Clubs? Find a club near you here, and be sure to RSVP here to watch our upcoming Solution Challenge Demo Day on August 26th.

Solution Challenge Winner Update: Samuel’s mission to get children vaccinated in Uganda

Posted by Aniedi Udo-Obong, Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Lead, Google Developer Communities

Samuel Mugisha has been very busy since we first shared his story in 2019. Back then, Samuel was a university student from Uganda who was inspired to create a mobile Immunization Calculator app to help keep track of children’s vaccinations after he saw his community using handwritten paper cards that were difficult to read and keep intact. Samuel kicked his idea into gear by forming a team with friends from GDSC Muni University, and they ended up winning the 2019 Google Developer Student Clubs Solution Challenge. The Solution Challenge is an annual event hosted by Google developers, inviting students from all over the world to develop solutions for local community problems using Google technology. Thanks to their win, Samuel and his team secured office space in Uganda and got up to speed with crucial tools like Android, Firebase, and Presto, with mentorship from some of Africa’s best at Google and other companies, as well as Google Developer Group community organizers.

Still, their project was in its earliest stages of development, and Samuel had a long way to go on the path to fixing a flawed healthcare system.

The immunization tracker’s progress

Fast forward to today, and Samuel and his team have made huge strides in building out the functionalities of their Immunization Calculator app. Lately, they’ve been working to increase the number of vaccinations the app can track and expanding to include other vaccines as well. These important updates will bring Samuel one step closer to his goal of increasing tracking and vaccinations of infants and children under a year old. Samuel and his team are also putting extra focus on improving functionality and user experience, making it easier than ever for parents to use the app to track their children’s vaccination status.

Vaccine tracking in-app

Thanks to the mentorship they received from Google Developer Experts as Solution Challenge winners, Samuel’s team was able to embed SMS messaging capabilities directly into the app. With this new functionality, the app now has the ability to remind parents to schedule their child’s next vaccine, and can provide accurate dosing information.

Vaccine reminder text alerts

In the app’s initial phase, the team relied on a simple user interface using NativeScript integrated to run on Gradle in Android Studio. Through mentorship, they found that implementing Kotlin instead was a more stable option that ran on most mobile devices. Since 2019, Felix Egaru, the core developer behind the project, has done a lot of work to add more features using Firebase. The app uses Firebase Authentication to authorize system users, Firebase Cloud Messaging to send push notifications, and Cloud Firestore to securely store user data. It also includes coverage and dropout rates, dosing instructions, and other important information thanks to Firebase. All of these new features let users access the data they need to make informed decisions about getting vaccinated. In a country with remote areas that have little to no internet access, Firebase’s offline capabilities have also proved vital for allowing healthcare workers to use the app in the field regardless of internet connectivity.

An app user joins the team

Despite all their progress, Samuel and his team still lacked the help they needed to get the app out into the world for real-time testing. Enter Kabagweri Fionah, a busy parent and small business owner who had started using Samuel’s app to keep track of her son’s vaccinations. She first discovered the Immunization Calculator app after seeing the Solution Challenge online and learning about the finalists.

Fionah immediately saw the app’s potential and knew that it could go a long way towards making a real difference in people’s lives, so she reached out to Samuel directly to see if she could join the team and help get the app out into the world. Not long after, Fionah was hired as a public relations officer, tasked with handling marketing, advocacy, and communications efforts to grow the app even further.

Kabagweri Fionah and Samuel Mugisha

Fionah joined the team at just the right time. Through her outreach efforts, Samuel and his team gained access to a local hospital in Kampala where they could actually put the Immunization Calculator to the test. Beyond just spreading the word, testing at the hospital helped them identify and fix bugs in the system and prepare their app for future, larger-scale testing. Recently, Samuel and his team reached an even bigger milestone. Thanks to Fionah’s persistence, the team was given an opportunity to deploy their project at the biggest health center in Kyegegwa District. Samuel and his team are currently working to raise funds so that they can complete a full year of system testing at the center.

Samuel at the health center in Kyegegwa District

As Samuel explains, Google Developer Student Clubs has helped his team get their foot in the door all along the way:

“Mentioning that the project was globally awarded by the GDSC program prompts someone’s attention to listen to the innovation, and this has helped us during the pitching.”

Setting himself up for success

Samuel credits the Solution Challenge and Google Developer Student Clubs for helping him transform his brilliant idea into a life-changing application. He puts it best when explaining why winning the Solution Challenge was such a huge motivation for him and his team.

“It gave us a tremendous understanding of what we had on our laptops and how much it can save children’s lives out there.”

Thanks to Google Developer Student Clubs, Samuel found a team of bold thinkers with the same passion to help others, and the drive to turn an idea into reality. Google Developer Experts were crucial in helping them bring the app’s functionalities to the next level. Samuel and his peers were given access to the tools they needed to grow: Coursera, Qwiklabs, Pluralsight, and Google Cloud credits to polish their development skills.

This year’s Solution Challenge Demo Day is right around the corner on August 26th, where the top 10 finalists will showcase their projects to Google and developers around the world live on YouTube for a chance to be named one of the final 3 winning teams. Samuel knows what the pressure feels like, and he’s got some great advice for the current finalists:

“Be the mastermind of your project and dwell most on the change or impact it can bring to the world. Not how big it is, or how expensive it is, or how technical it is. Success is not final and failure is not fatal. Identify what went wrong, correct and implement it, then prepare for another shot.”

Thanks to Samuel’s focus on the goal and drive to make a difference, he and his team are well on their way to making healthcare more accessible for Ugandans in his community and beyond. Google Developer Student Clubs are perfect for building solutions to help your community with other students who share your passion. Equip yourself with the knowledge you need to bring your best idea to life. Click here to find a Google Developer Community Student Club community near you.