There’s an app for that
By DANA BECKER
AMES – Josh Carlson was well into his senior year at Iowa State University when he received unexpected news that made him smile.
Carlson, a Southeast Valley High School graduate, was honored alongside three of his fellow Cyclones for the completion of a smartphone app over the summer during an internship with Landus Cooperative. The quartet was awarded the “Highest Return on Investment” project in the OutSystems 2019 Low-Code Innovation Awards.
Along with Carlson, Josh Halbur from Breda, Laura Mincks of Columbus Junction and Kate Collins from Adel developed software requirements, oversaw spring planning and design, tested the app and calculated the approximately $100,000 return on investment.
“There were four projects that you could be a part of, and you listened to a description of each one then ranked them on which one you like the most to the one that you were least interested in,” Carlson said. “Alicia Heun was our project mentor. Persistent Company, and the internal IT team were people who we went to and helped us with this project. Alicia had the idea to create this app that would be intercompany for employees to use and record harvest hours per location.”
During the project, Carlson and his fellow interns worked through numerous battles that came up along the way.
“We found that there was a lot more work that goes into building an app then what you originally think,” Carlson said. “When you look at like Snapchat, any game you play on your cellular device, etc., you have to plan what each ‘page/button’ is going to do or how it will function. We had to write ‘stories’ and ‘sprints.’
“Stories are where we talk about each page and what it is going to do within that page. So, for example one of the pages we created, it was called ‘Default Hours.’ Here the location manager had his locations that he was in charge of to pick from. We set it up that way so they didn’t have to scroll through all of Landus’ locations. They then picked what they wanted for their default hours for Monday-through-Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday noon-6 p.m.
“Once they set the times, they then would pick the date they wanted it to start and end. So, if they choose Sept. 20 as the start date and Oct. 28 as the end, every day in between there it would send messages out that that was the time those locations were open for Harvest Hours. They would then be able to change it if need be and there were hour change, maintenance delay, maintenance closure, weather delay, reopening and request custom message.”
All of that was put into place to benefit the managers at each cooperative and make things run smoothly. In fact, Carlson himself took advantage of the program after it was fully created.
“Giving these options, we felt covered most everything that could potentially happen at a cooperative,” he said. “A sprint is a two-week outlook of what we want to get accomplished in those weeks. It was very satisfying to see how the progress of the app was coming along.
“Persistent computer programmers building our app took what we envisioned and built it. It was also nice for me because I am a member and use the Landus Customer app and had a vision on how I thought it would be beneficial for farmers for where this app should go and be. I also signed up for the notifications and received them during harvest from the app that I created.”
Over 7,000 farmer members across more than 50 grain locations in 26 counties were given the chance to use this app built by the group, who were honored at a NextStep conference in Denver.
For Carlson, the experience turned into a very beneficial one for now and possibly in the future.
“I think this has played a big impact on my life as I can take the skills learned from this project and apply them,” he said. “I learned how to work in a small group and what it takes to make an app. I can also talk to the people that have helped us along the way during this project with questions, concerns and future employment if something happens with my current plans.”
After graduating from Iowa State following this semester, with a major in agriculture studies and minors in agronomy and agriculture systems technology, Carlson plans to return home to work on the family farm alongside his father, Jim, and mother, Jennifer, where they produce corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs.
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