Mayank Kumar '18 and Vineet Yagnik '18 were hanging out in their room on the sixth floor of Oak Hall last spring when inspiration struck.
“We should do something productive,” Yagnik said to Kumar in Hindi. “We should build an app.”
Kumar, a computer science major, took on the task. He spent six months learning app design and coding through an online education program, and in February released the UMass Pulse App. The app draws from calendars published by the schools, colleges, and organizations on campus and combines their events in one place.
“It is easy to drown in the flood of events that happen each day on campus,” says the app’s description. “UMass Pulse makes it easy to know what’s coming.”
Yagnik, an accounting and economics major, has taken on the role of promoting and marketing the app. He reaches out to students and staff on campus to spread the word about UMass Pulse.
Kumar is from Mumbai, India, and Yagnik is from Singapore. They wanted to design an app that would be especially useful to first-year, transfer, and international students who might feel overwhelmed by all the activities on campus. They have a vision that the app will be a hub where UMass students can see everything that is happening on any particular day.
After Kumar learned the programming skills, he spent eight hours every day for two weeks building UMass Pulse. Kumar estimates that he currently spends three to four hours each day maintaining and updating the app with new events and fixing any glitches that arise.
In spite of the hours of work Kumar and Yagnik have put into the app, neither strives to make a profit from it.
“We’re not putting ads on the app and that’s not going to change,” Yagnik said. “We want it to be a tool that makes everything easier for students, and especially new students.”
The app does contain a “donate” button, however, to cover the fees paid out-of-pocket to keep it running.
Yagnik said his experiences marketing and promoting the app have put him outside of his comfort zone, but that he has been learning throughout the process. He hopes to see UMass Pulse become more widely used among UMass Amherst students. Kumar said he hopes to update the app to become more comprehensive and “smarter,” that is, faster and with location services.
Initial reactions to UMass Pulse have been positive, according to Yagnik. App users have praised the design but also suggested improvements including sorting the events by location and category. Kumar says that future updates might include displaying emergency notifications and event cancellations, and including maps for directions to events.
Above all else, Kumar and Yagnik hope that students find UMass Pulse useful.
“We are international students, and coming [to UMass Amherst] was an extreme change for us. We were in a new country, in a new university, and learning new things,” Yagnik said.
“When we came, we did not know about anything that was going on in the university. There were just too many different portals with too many different events,” Kumar added. “So we want to help.”