In the summer of 2017, I was thinking about ways in which to improve campus life at my highschool. I wondered whether I could make the way that students paid for items at the snack bar easier. At the time, to purchase something, students would write down their name and amount on a charge sheet. This system, unsurprisingly, led to incorrect charges and lots of manual data entry. My first idea was to get a barcode reader, hook it up to a laptop, and scan students' IDs when they wanted to buy an item. However, that felt clunky, so I approached the software experts at HarkerDev, the student-run development team that I would soon join and build Harker Pay with.
We started with a basic idea: make payments better at our highschool. From there, we talked to 8 staff members involved with the payment system and gleaned some information about existing problems:
Out of all the projects I worked on, the user research for Harker Pay was the easiest, because everybody on campus was affected (usually negatively) by the existing payments system. My main takeaway from this almost-trivial user research is that if you want to gain experience building product, definitely start with something everybody around you needs. It's much easier to interview yourself and your friends than strangers over Zoom!
From here, we drafted up a proposal flush with product features that would address these problems. We put these together in a document for our school's finance department, as well as some mock-ups of what the product would look like. After a few more meetings with the administration and Student Council, we refined our product features into the following:
Wahoo! Upcoming easter egg for getting this far! I also designed the favicon for Harker Pay, which I have included below for your viewing pleasure.
Unfortunately, all the code is hosted on Harker Dev's private Git servers, so I can't link to anything specific. But I can, however, talk about some interesting aspects of what I worked on.
Those are most of the technical aspects of the product that I worked on. This project wouldn't at all have been possible without the phenomenal Ryan, Rithvik, and David, so I'll let them use their own blogs to explain what wonderful parts of this product they implemented.
Harker Pay was the first project I worked on that had real usage. It's a great feeling when your servers crash because too many people are trying to use your product. At some points, we had over 300 concurrent users all making payments (there was an ice-cream truck that day!). By the time I had graduated, Harker Pay had processed over $250K+. As Ryan, Rithvik, David, and I were all graduating, we passed down Harker Pay to the future generation of Harker Dev, who now maintain it themselves.
I'm grateful that Harker let us deploy this product to the school, and I'm even more grateful that students to this day are still using the product that my friends and I created, once upon a time.