Coding for Critters

Seniors Design App in Startup Company

Donovan Nichols, Co-Editor In Chief

While many students have struggled to find ways to stay entertained or busy during quarantine, seniors Lucas Cai and Samuel Yuan have busied themselves with a rather unique claim to fame: participating in a multinational startup company, working as the app design team for a group made entirely up of fellow highschoolers.

“It’s not just an app, it’s a full project called PetCode” Cai said. “It’s like a smart pet tag. There are some GPS trackers out there, but most of them are pretty bulky and ugly. The point of this is to have something simple and good looking. The tag is pretty simple, just a circular tag with a QR code on it. When you store the tag you can access all kinds of information about your pet, like vaccinations and medical records, and it stores the location of the tag in a database whenever you scan, so if your pet is lost and someone scans it, you’ll get a notification and be able to go pick them up.”

The PetCode tag has three main components: the tag itself, a mobile app to access the tag, and a website to view your tag information on a desktop device. The team behind the project comes from many different backgrounds, with some members living in California and Canada. Cai and Yuan have been involved in the project since early summer.

“Someone just reached out to me through LinkedIn, and asked since I had competed in some hackathons, where you have 24 hours to come up with some app or website to solve a problem, if I would be interested in this project they had started,” Cai said. “Everything’s been all online because of the pandemic, but that’s worked out and been a pretty good thing for us.”

The app and the main PetCode tag are not available to the public yet; the team is finalizing some aspects of their Kickstarter project to release during December; once that goal is met, the transition towards releasing the final product will begin.

“The hardest part on my end was trying to make something that was production quality,” Yuan said. “It has to be an actual app that runs smoothly, loads quickly, and doesn’t have a bunch of errors. I had to learn a lot of new things about data management, just ways to conserve data and make it more best practices.”

Cai focused on the front-end user interface of the app, the part users will actually see and interact with everytime they use it. Yuan focused on the back-end development, which powers the interface and works with storing and working with information.

“When you look at an app on your phone like Instagram, there’s a lot more that goes into it than you think to make it run smoothly,” Cai said. “There’s a lot of detail that goes into creating a production level app so it runs consistently and doesn’t give you a red screen full of errors after you misclick a button, like making it work on different sizes of phone screens. You think it’s working fine, and then you load it up on a slightly bigger phone and you see it’s not working there.

Both Cai and Yuan plan to study computer science in college and continue their experiences with entrepreneurship. Cai admits he is not sure if he wants to completely focus on app or website development, but wants to continue using computer science to create new things.

“My plan is just while I have time, I’ll try to found my own startup,” Yuan said. “With this experience with other highschoolers, I’ve found it’s not that difficult to start making your product. It’s pretty cool because you can have something that can help a bunch of people, get a ton of downloads, and really start making some people’s lives easier.”