Scared that your spring semester professors are going to be as rough as your fall ones? Having trouble deciding the best time to do your laundry? In need of funding for a club event but don’t know where to start? Penn Labs has got you covered on all of that and more. A team of Penn students working together to create innovative products, Penn Labs is changing the way students live their daily lives from the palm of their hand.
“Penn Labs is a problem–solving club,” explains Emily Tan (M&T '20), a Co–Director at Penn Labs. “We take a look at some of the feasible problems on campus and consider how we can solve them through technology. We try and look for any kind of solution that we think could help to enhance student life or even, extending beyond students, teachers, faculty, or any kind of stakeholder on campus.”
A dedicated team of engineers, developers, and designers, is the only on–campus organization that uses software development to create products directly catered towards Penn students and is known for some of its popular apps, including Penn Course Review, Penn Mobile, and Penn Course Alert. “I’ve always been involved in community service in the past, and it’s hard as an undergraduate to feel like you’re really making an impact sometimes. But being a part of Penn Labs is a way to use your skills to make a direct impact here on campus. The stuff we make, students use every day,” says Tan.
With constant meetings filled with hours of programming, discussion, and product designing, Penn Labs’ students extend their learning far beyond the classroom. “Taking Penn courses, you have all these homework assignments and you do them, but that’s kind of where it ends,” begins Sam Akhavan (E '20), a current developer at Penn Labs and a former Project Manager for Penn Course Alert. “Penn Labs is two–fold in that it not only gives you an opportunity to work on projects that extend beyond one week or one month, but also gives you the chance to make a difference beyond the classroom. It’s a constant, ongoing process and you’re never really done.”
Running a student group with such high demands and needs, the members of Penn Labs gain experience in much more than just coding: they gain exposure to issues and experiences similar to that of a real company. “I feel like I’ve learned a thousand times more from Penn Labs than I have from any of my classes,” says Dominic Holmes (E '20), another Co–Director at Penn Labs. “Learning how to build a certain feature or figuring out how certain parts work together while developing a feature while also having strict deadlines and an overall responsibility to your team and to the student body, is just such a unique learning experience that has helped me immensely.”
“It’s an absurdly tight community. If you have a question about anything, there will be someone there to help you,” says Cameron Cabo (M&T '20), the social chair for Penn Labs and lead developer for their upcoming product, Penn Basics. Currently working on unifying all their products onto a single platform for students to access, the members of Penn Labs are continually searching for new ways to improve their products for the betterment of their peers.
Behind the scenes of your favorite apps, you’ll find a group of passionate, driven, and dedicated Penn students just like you. “People here are super inspirational,” explains Tan. “People voluntarily work on these projects and geek out about them, and they are all very passionate about the things they are making. It’s clear that people don’t do it because their part of the organization, but they do it because they fundamentally care about helping Penn.”