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Students’ React Native App Opens Channels Across the Globe

Owen Poindexter

Students’ React Native App Opens Channels Across the Globe's Image

“Imagine,” says recent graduate Charlie Harrington, “if you could see the sunset in Cairo, or what’s going on right now in Red Square in Moscow.” This is the idea behind Wormie, a mobile iOS app built at Hack Reactor with classmates Nick Fujita and Sunyoung Kim. Wormie, currently under review by the Apple App Store, allows users to request a video or livestream of a specific location, and users within a certain radius will be able to respond to that request.

“The cool thing about Wormie is right now, anywhere you want to be in the world, someone will be there with a mobile phone,” Harrington explains.

 Wormie users can explore cities through the eyes of others.

The use-cases for Wormie range from international connections, to getting a feel for a hike one is considering, to seeing if there is a line at a chosen brunch spot. The app taps into the full range of human curiosity.

“One inspiration for the app is the user request,” notes Fujita. Wormie users initiate content requests rather than passively receiving what others decide to post. “Right now, content is focused on what the capturer wants to present. We want to experiment with what people want to see.”

Wormie also uses the phone’s GPS functionality to create a map of where a video is coming from.

Rather than use an iOS-focused language such as Swift or Objective-C, the team opted for React Native, a JavaScript framework released by Facebook. Should the app prove popular, having it in React Native will make it much easier to move over to Android. The challenge of working with this framework is that it is being added to and changed on a regular basis.

“It’s a new framework and they are making changes very rapidly, so some of the modules we needed are still in progress,” Fujita explains. “For the camera stuff, advanced mapping, things like WebRTC, which we used to facilitate the livestream, the community was just starting to build out those features. Over the course of the project, we had multiple interactions with the open source developers working on React Native.”

Having an open line of communication with the engineers building out a cutting edge JavaScript framework was an unexpected bonus of the program.

“In enterprise tech,” says Fujita, recalling his work prior to starting Hack Reactor, “because the projects are so big, the tech lags behind the bleeding edge. Being able to work with [bleeding edge technologies] is really exciting.”

 From left, Nick Fujita, Sunyoung Kim and Charlie Harrington built Wormie, an iOS app that allows users to request video content from anywhere in the world.

Daniel Imrie-Situnayake, a Hack Reactor instructor who mentored the team, was impressed by how quickly they were able to figure out React Native, despite its relative lack of documentation.

"It was amazing to see Wormie go from idea to production app so fast, with only a team of three people - especially since they were using React Native, a technology so new that there's relatively little out there on how to use it," Imrie-Situnayake noted. "The Wormie team has the perfect mix of technical proficiency, design instincts and project management skills."

While building a polished, user-focused app, the team maintained a culture of collaboration and education.

“Hack Reactor is a full stack JavaScript program, but it’s much more than that,” describes Fujita. “It’s gaining that ability to learn how to learn. For Wormie, we said ‘Let’s go learn React Native and Python.’ We were trained to do that in the first weeks of Hack Reactor. No matter what job I get, I feel technology and language agnostic.”

The team made a practice of teaching each other all the lessons they learned along the way.

“Anytime we got confused and learned something new, we immediately shared it with the team,” says Harrington. “We kept swapping roles, and by the end, we were all doing full stack.”

This approach emphasized what many say is the most important skill for an engineer: communication.

I value this on par with my college education. I learned so much more in this course than probably a lot of the time I spent in college. It’s so condensed and so well curated. I feel like I went to college again for four years.
— Nick Fujita, Hack Reactor graduate.

“People think the hardest stuff is the tech,” says Fujita. “It’s actually working with others--being open to people’s different ideas about how they want to solve a problem.”

“Everyone has different ways to solve challenges. It was interesting to see two very different types in a single group,” adds Kim. “Nick is extremely calm when a bug comes out. Charlie is really intense and focused.”

Building Wormie helped this trio understand what is possible with their new skills.

“This has been the best three months ever,” states Harrington. “Hack Reactor is filled with incredibly motivated students and I think that’s a key difference from any other educational environment I’ve been in. I’m really excited about the strong alumni network.”

Fujita also described Hack Reactor as a standout educational experience.

“I value this on par with my college education,” he says. “I learned so much more in this course than probably a lot of the time I spent in college. It’s so condensed and so well curated. I feel like I went to college again for four years.”

The Hack Reactor staff added value beyond the group’s expectations.

“I’m international, so the first two weeks were hard,” Kim recalls. “The staff really helped me get started programming and communicating.” She also adds that our outcomes team, which helps graduates find their first job out of the program, is “so amazing.”

“I can’t wait to do this full time,” says Harrington. “We all kept thinking if we can do something this fun full time, that’s going to be great.”

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