An App Development Internship
Each year we create internships for students from technical universities, who are interested in mobile app development.
In the past years, we organized internships with a focus on pro bono app development for organisations from Timișoara but last year we decided to accept NGOs from anywhere in the world.
We want to provide a meaningful internship experience during which students can improve their coding skills while working on real-life projects. By putting together an internship experience that focuses on pro bono app development, we are putting our interns’ time and effort to good use and helping an NGO at the same time.
Purposeful Internships for Passionate Students
Over 80 students applied to our internship – both from Romania and other countries. We decided to take the internship to a greater extent and make it an international experience so we selected three students, one from the United States, one from Israel and one from Romania.
As for NGOs, we had 6 great projects to choose from. We selected the UK Sepsis Trust – a charity organisation in Birmingham focusing on sepsis awareness and prevention. They had a clear idea in mind and a good understanding of a software project.
So this was our dev team, from four countries, involved in the internship program:
- UK – Simon was our contact from The UK Sepsis Trust, providing information, specs and feedback;
- USA – Jacob, our intern from California, passionate about software development and Swift – working on the iOS app;
- Israel – Adam, our intern from Israel, friend of Jacob, also passionate about software development and Swift – working on the iOS app together with Jacob;
- Romania: Radu, our intern from UPT passionate about Kotlin, working on the Android app. Marco & Adi from Cobalt Sign who took care of the project management and supervised the technical part, also helping out where necessary.
We have experience with remote work and international projects, our clients being from all over the world. However, for an internship setup, this was quite challenging because students usually have little experience with remote teamwork.
Adam and Jacob were initially thinking of taking a trip to Spain so they could visit places and have fun all while being closer to our timezone for some coding as well. We would have loved to meet them.
Getting Ready to Develop the iOS & Android App
We started discussions with The UK Sepsis Trust in June. After establishing the details with the NGO representatives, we set up a project in Basecamp to get organized and started working on the app. We like using Basecamp for some of our projects because it’s a clean and useful tool that helps everyone involved communicate and stay informed.
Next step was discussing the NGO’s needs and requirements in order to establish the features that would be implemented in the app. Having this on the table, we then made the wireframes proposal so we could discuss and establish the structure of the app and the user experience. The user interface design for the app was next. We followed the image guidelines of the NGO to create an app design that is representative of their organisation. And finally, we decided upon the technical aspects and set up the base structures so that coding could begin.
The Development Process
As everything was set up, we started the work on the UK Sepsis Trust app.
Jacob and Adam began the work on the iOS app a little sooner, but shortly after, Radu’s internship started as well.
From an app developer’s point of view, the internships here at Cobalt Sign are very similar to the actual work we do for clients, just scaled down to a smaller project. We use the same types of tools, we organize the work in similar ways and we communicate often because communication is very important to creating a good product.
While we like to keep things well organized, we also like to give people as much flexibility as possible. Students chose their own timetable and their tasks to work on. Using a tool like Basecamp helped them have an overview of the project and their assigned tasks, access all the necessary details and easily ask questions.
Beside Basecamp, the students used XCode and Android Studio for app development and Git for source control. They learned to make pull requests and participated in code reviews which are a great way to learn and improve coding.
The mentors from Cobalt Sign were there to help whenever the students needed assistance or had questions. We believe the best way to learn and improve is by hands-on training so we encourage this kind of work method here.
With our remote students (Jacob and Adam) we would organize online meetings whenever it was needed. Radu, however, worked from our office and he was able to participate in our daily scrums and discuss more with his mentors.
So, our approach was to let the students finish as many tasks as they could during the internship at their own pace. And in September, after the internship ended for the students, we took over the project to polish and finish what was needed to get the apps ready for publishing.
The app reached the App Stores just in time for World Sepsis Day on September 14. Read more about the app we created.
Thoughts From Our Students
We spoke with all our interns about their experience here at Cobalt Sign.
Jacob & Adam (iOS developers) were looking for summer internship opportunities for high school students. They found our internship announcement online and decided to apply as they could also work remotely. They wanted to gather experience in creating apps and wanted to help the NGO.
Radu (Android developer) is from Timișoara and he knew the Politehnica University of Timișoara was organizing internships in collaboration with Liga AC. He saw our announcement on their website and that we were going to teach Android app development as well. He has experience in Java and wanted to learn more about app development so he decided to apply.
Our interns said that they liked the challenge of the internship: to develop an app for an NGO. They think it’s a good idea to organize the internships around pro bono app development because it gives a preview of how it is to work for a client and they could also do some volunteering work at the same time.
Their expectations were to see how work is done in an actual work environment, to learn app development along with experienced app developers and to improve their coding skills. They liked the fact that we used Basecamp, that we scheduled regular meetings and that they had a roadmap of tasks just like in an actual work environment. Some of them would have preferred to use Slack instead of Basecamp Campfire but we opted to have all the information in one place.
Radu said the project was quite challenging technically. As he didn’t have previous experience in app development and did not code in Kotlin before, this was all new for him but he liked it and he liked that he had the opportunity to learn a lot.
Jacob and Adam are friends, and they have worked together on projects before so they are quite independent and make a good team. Jacob thinks the project was the right challenge taking into consideration his skills and the given time frame. He got to learn a few things related to teamwork on GitHub and he appreciated the code reviews. He thinks this experience will definitely be helpful in future. He and Adam believe that the guidance provided was good and that Basecamp was a good tool to use.
They were happy to see the apps published on the stores and they said that it was quite motivating and cool to see the apps ready to download.
All our students believed that this was a realistic preview of this career field and we’re happy that we were able to create this experience for them. The students stated that they liked being involved in the communications with the client and seeing how app development is done in a company, in a team of developers.
Moreover, they said that they would probably continue to learn app development and maybe also try developing apps for the other platform out of curiosity.
We would also like to thank our students for applying, developing the apps and most importantly, we’d like to congratulate them for their efforts during the internship program. We wish them the best of luck in their careers!
Check out the final app below or read more about it here!
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