Computer scientists create site for community skill-building
Two ASU alumni establish a project-based community for developers to practice skills and network during quarantine
Above: Personal programming projects are a valuable tool for computer science students to learn and practice skills, build their resumes and impress future employers. Dhantin Kumar and Kaan Aksoy developed Quaranteam, a website for computer science students, professionals and enthusiasts to join or create projects to develop their skills and network with peers around the world. Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Projects and internships set computer science students apart from one another when applying for jobs. They provide real-world development experience to complement theory-based courses.
As the COVID-19 pandemic interrupts the plans of many computer science students and graduates to build skills through internships, two Arizona State University alumni have a solution: Quaranteam.
Dhantin Kumar and Kaan Aksoy, who both graduated in May with computer science degrees from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU, were inspired to help their peers who lost summer internships to take advantage of personal projects as an alternative to further develop their skills.
“Aside from showing real-world skills, completing side projects also demonstrates drive and motivation, both of which are important for success in a software engineering career,” says Aksoy, who is beginning work remotely this summer with New York-based investment company Two Sigma.
Aksoy and Kumar have turned to side projects to strengthen their resumes. However, they and their peers have often found a lack of direction and motivation to be a hurdle to starting a project on their own.
“Quaranteam is a site that aims to solve that issue by creating a collaborative community of like-minded individuals who can motivate each other, work on impactful projects with one another and continue to grow,” says Kumar, who is returning to ASU in the fall as a computer science graduate student.
The Quaranteam website launched the first week of June when many students realized their skill- and network-building summer internships had been canceled.
Users create a profile and can choose from existing projects suggested by other users or submit their own projects to find teammates.
The web application encourages collaboration, so it was important for Kumar and Aksoy to make leading and joining projects easy. A tagging system helps match projects to users’ abilities, skills and interests, and a popular, free communication platform brings teammates together.
“One of the most innovative features we implemented was to automatically generate a Discord channel for every project created on the platform,” Aksoy says. “This makes it extremely easy for project members to discuss plans and collaborate with one another.”
In less than two months, Quaranteam has reached computer science students from 1,500 cities in nearly 100 countries.
“Quaranteam hosts a variety of people from all different skill sets, including undergraduate students with canceled internships, graduate students, professionals who are currently working and even high school computer science enthusiasts,” Kumar says.
In the past month, nearly 40 projects were created and four have been completed, with more reaching the finish line soon.
The range of projects users can create are limited only by their imagination. Projects in progress include writing a compiler (a program that makes code executable by computers), a gaming emulator, a social media site for people passionate about the Adirondack Mountains in New York and a neural network built from scratch. The projects span dozens of programming languages and platforms and provide computer scientists an opportunity to put their skills to work beyond the classroom or their typical work responsibilities.
So far, Kumar and Aksoy have gotten positive feedback from the community, like praise for having a centralized location for finding projects and a streamlined process of joining teams and starting development.
Aksoy, who also helped develop the internship status and hiring site ismyinternshipcancelled.com, says Quaranteam is for more than students missing out on summer internships in 2020.
“The scope of this project will be expanded beyond this summer — and the quarantine — for all computer science enthusiasts who want to improve their skills and work on cool side projects, whether it be for their resume or just for fun,” he says.
Beyond learning and practicing their skills, the Quaranteam creators hope their platform can become a “nurturing community” among computer science students that spans multiple universities.
“Ideally, students will meet new friends and naturally create professional networks that will benefit them throughout their entire careers,” Kumar says. “In the current work-from-home culture and transition to online learning, it is important that students learn how to virtually collaborate so that they can progress in their careers.”