Google Code-in 2014 wrap up with OpenMRS, part two

Thursday, June 4, 2015

OpenMRS is a medical records system used around the world, especially in places where resources are scarce. This past December and January, the OpenMRS community took part in Google Code-in. Today, grand prize winner Parker Erway tells us about writing code during the contest. (We previously featured a story from OpenMRS’ other grand prize winner.)

I’m Parker Erway. I worked with OpenMRS as part of Google Code-in 2014, a contest encouraging kids ages 13-17 to contribute to open source organizations. I’d say it’s working!

OpenMRS itself has a wonderful mission statement: “to improve health care delivery in resource-constrained environments by coordinating a global community that creates a robust, scalable, user-driven, open source medical record system platform.”

I had fun and learned a great deal contributing to OpenMRS. I spent about three weeks on developing an iOS client and its accompanying tasks (adding more features to, documenting, and publishing the app). Although I could have done this faster, I wanted to incorporate every best practice I knew of. One of my favorite things to do is start a fresh new project and try to do everything perfectly. It was great seeing all that hard work and learning pay off, and I’m proud to have made a lasting contribution to the community.

Through six tasks, I also spent time helping to overhaul OpenMRS-ID’s user interface in accordance with their new designs. I had never worked with Node before, and I learned a lot about how partials work, how the asset pipeline works, etc… Other projects I got to work on included deploying OpenMRS to OpenShift and suggesting improvements to the documentation, improving the Modulus search algorithm, correcting bad code practices using Sonar, and fixing a few bugs.

I’d never contributed to a large open source organization before, but I think it’s totally worth it. You meet amazing people doing amazing things, and you get to work with and learn from them. Before working with OpenMRS, I had the impression that large organizations -- even open source ones -- tend to take forever to make changes and review work and such. But once I started, I found that things happened quickly and you could really get stuff done. I truly felt like a member of the community after the contest period, and I’m very grateful to the OpenMRS mentors.

Although I could have completed a larger number of tasks, what’s important to me is that every line of code I write is maintainable, solid, testable (ideally tested as soon as I write it), and in general, good. I want to do good work, not a large amount of mediocre work. Google Code-in has helped cement that concept in me, and I plan to continue contributing to OpenMRS. I hope to see other GCI students stay in the community, too!

by Parker Erway, GCI Grand Prize Winner