The City of Houston Open Challenge closed on December 1. It was a lightning-fast, 30 day challenge around three areas identified as “priorities” by Mayor Parker and Mayor Pro Tem Gonzalez. This is part one of a three part series profiling each of the three open challenges. (part two) (part three coming soon)
Up first is Patrick Eleden. He wrote congre.us, which is a shared calendar system for public events and the winner of our Public Meeting Notifications challenge. He lives in Clear Lake, he’s a Senior in high school, and he built the app over his Thanksgiving break. Basically, he’s awesome.
Jeff: Can you tell me more about your background and what got you involved here?
Patrick: Well, I’m a high school student and I’ve always been interested in computers and tech stuff. Over the summer, I worked for my aunt for computer programming and website development stuff, and then I also worked for a local guy here to do their websites, so I’ve had a little bit of experience in programming. But I’m always here to learn. And I participated in the Houston Hackathon with some guys from my high school last year.
Jeff: Yeah, I remember. You guys were awesome.
Patrick: Oh, thanks. Yeah, we had fun with that.
Jeff: So how did you hear about the open challenge?
Patrick: I heard about it through the meetup. I got the email like a couple of weeks before it was due, and then I had Thanksgiving off, so I figured I’d work on this.
Jeff: You just built it over Thanksgiving?
Jeff: That’s awesome. I saw that you wrote the app in Node. Why did you choose Node? What other tools did you use?
Patrick: I chose Node because I hadn’t really messed with it much in the past, so this was a good opportunity to dive in and learn more about it. I also used Express and Passport for the templating and for user authentication.
Jeff: I noticed that you submitted a minimum viable product. It was really good. I mean, it won. But what are some of the ways that you would improve this app if you were to, say, devote another Thanksgiving weekend to it? What are some of the things that you would do?
Patrick: Okay, well in my sign up in here, I have the choice of a preset number, but as the app was just in testing, I didn’t really use it to narrow down users displays of the town hall listings, so I would definitely add some filtering options for that. I’d love to improve the layout a little bit. It’s a little bit bland. I just tried to make the backend work and then I just put the frontend together with Bootstrap. So I would improve on that. I’d get some cool pictures. But as far as the functionality, it’s pretty close to where I’d want it to be.
Jeff: So I just have one more question for you. What are your plans after graduation? You said you were a senior in high school?
Patrick: Yeah, I’m a senior in high school. I’ve been accepted to A&M. I’m waiting for UT and a couple of other schools. I’d like to go to UT to pursue computer science.