REU Week 7

Hello all! We’re officially over 2/3 of the way through the REU! I don’t know whether to be excited, anxious, overwhelmed or all of the above!

This week was a little strange due to the 4th of July being exactly in the middle of the week, but we made do. On Monday, I successfully built in the note taking portion of our app! Hooray!

I also decided to play around with and alter some aesthetic settings, so our app is slightly more customized now; the navigation bars and launch screen have all become a light green, which I thought was a nice, fairly gender-neutral color. I also tentatively put the name Epiphany on the launch screen. It’s all subject to change, so we’ll see if we stick with it!

After I finished that, I spent most of the rest of the week researching how to build the back-end of the app. This ended up being much more of an ordeal than I thought! I learned about the term backend-as-a-service (BaaS) and looked at some options such as Parse, CloudKit, Firebase, etc. Our biggest concern at the moment is being able to access the users’ data, which seems to be pretty restricted if we choose to go with a BaaS; CloudKit, for example, only allows developers to see a user’s first and last name, and that’s only with extensive permissions. We do have the option to build the backend ourselves, but in our meeting on Thursday, we decided it would be better to go with a BaaS due to time constraints and complexity.

To complicate things, however, on Friday I got in touch with a postdoc by the name of Olivia Walch at the University of Michigan. She built an app that helps users avoid jet lag based on their circadian rhythms, and she allowed users to opt in to sharing their data with her. In the email, I inquired as to whether she used a BaaS or built her own, and she responded that she built it herself. I plan to follow up with her this weekend, particularly to see how long it took her and how difficult of a process it was.

We also have really started diving into app design and layout. I worked a bit with UICollectionViews this week, as ultimately we’d really like to display notes, photos, etc. this way as opposed to a UITableView. I built a test app using the Flickr API to become more familiar with CollectionViews, and it was a pretty cool mini project!

This Friday was also our tea! We each gave lightning talks over our projects. I thought everyone did a decent job, especially considering we had to stay within three minutes. Considering I only talked very briefly about our project in our department meeting last week (about 5 minutes), it wasn’t hard to pare down the material I wanted to talk about in three minutes. You can access my slides here.

As for our video and poster, they are in progress! We’re designing our poster in PowerPoint on Michael’s computer, so unfortunately I don’t currently have access to the file; I’ll post it next week. We did meet with James just before the weekend to talk a little bit about our poster content so far, and it was great to get some feedback.

I think that about wraps it up for this week! In terms of time, we’re getting closer to the wire, so it will really be go-time next week. We’ll have a lot to report this next Friday, so check back in then!