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Charitable Student Project Facilitates Gifts to Children in Need

Three Hack Reactor students took on a project that allowed them to build a project from scratch for a client while doing some good for the world. The city of San Mateo, just south of San Francisco, runs a gift registry for children in need through their Human Services Agency. The registry regularly has around 300 children, and swells to 3,000 during the winter holidays. What it lacked was an efficient way to run the registry.

“They were using paper and Excel,” says Amar Patel, who worked on the project with fellow students Evan Kim and Wayland Woodruff.

“They were getting bottlenecked by this outdated infrastructure,” Kim describes. “Our primary job was to build a system on the backend.”

San Mateo's new online gift registry will facilitate charitable donations to children in need (website not launched at time of writing).

San Mateo's new online gift registry will facilitate charitable donations to children in need (website not launched at time of writing).

The group had all of two weeks to make this happen, after which they would move on to other projects.

Once the city is fully prepared for the changeover, the manual, offline system will be replaced with an online registry, similar to those often used for weddings. Building the site from scratch forced the trio to work through a slew of challenges, both global and granular.

“There's a lot of thought and attention that goes into building an entire infrastructure, and there are a lot of little features that go into it that you wouldn't normally think about,” says Kim.

Compounding that was the need to go from zero to complete in two weeks and “the security that’s required with all the children’s data,” Patel adds.

“Working with a government entity is really challenging,” says Kim. “There are issues with paying Paypal or stripe fees that wouldn't come up in, say, a startup. We had to significantly shift our focus about six days in.”

Despite, or perhaps because of the challenges involved, all three were invigorated by the project. By making the registry more accessible, one can only assume that donations to the children’s fund will increase.

“You don't need to be in San Mateo or know the phone number or anything like that,” says Patel, describing the differences between the system San Mateo was using compared to what they are moving toward.

“I definitely wanted to get into coding to make a positive impact,” says Kim. “In today's age, with the internet, we have the power to make a lot of things happen. It's super exciting to make even a small impact in the world.”

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