Words by Jack Sun
Coders for Causes (or CFC for short) is a student-run club here at UWA that specialises in developing web applications for not-for-profit and charity organisations. Our way of volunteering is pretty different from what you might imagine when you think of the word “volunteering”. But yes! Over thirty people mashing away at a keyboard while eating pizzas is considered volunteering! This type of volunteering, called tech-volunteering, has become increasingly prevalent and in demand in the last few years as not-for-profit and charity organisations struggle to hire expensive developers within their limited budgets. And that’s where CFC comes in. We run two web development projects twice a year (during the winter mid-year and end-of-year summer breaks) to develop technical software solutions for our clients, which consist wholly of not-for-profit and charity organisations, free of charge. These projects are impossible without our selfless student volunteers, who dedicate their holidays to developing web applications with a real impact.
CFC has two main objectives. The first is to empower not-for-profit and charity organisations by providing them with technical consulting and building web applications. Secondly, and equally important, we empower our students by upskilling them in technologies such as React, Vue, and other tools in demand by the tech industry through weekly project workshops. Projects are structured to simulate working in a professional environment. We have standup meetings twice a week where everyone can discuss their progress and catch up with the rest of the team. We also follow industry-standard best practices such as rigorous code reviews, automated testing, and writing documentation. This process is enhanced by our Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery pipelines, which allow us to run tests and deploy our applications with the click of a button.
We carefully tailor every project to suit each of our client organisation’s specific requirements. Before client engagement, we hold many different meetings with the clients to discuss their requirements and internally with the committee to discuss the various technical challenges that will need to be overcome and the proposed technologies to be used for the project. Unfortunately, because CFC is a club run by volunteers, we are unable to take on every project due to time and logistic constraints. Thus we carefully choose projects based on three criteria: client impact, volunteer learning, and community engagement. Furthermore, the projects cannot be easy or simple as that will mean volunteers won’t be able to learn too much. The projects also cannot be too complex, as most of our volunteers have a limited amount of web development experience. Finally, preference is given to local organisations geographically based in Perth.
Entry into our project teams can be pretty competitive. If you are preparing to apply to one of our projects, we recommend learning basic web development and working on a small personal project. We look favourably upon those who can talk about their personal projects during our interviews. During our in-person project sessions, we invite past project members and representatives from our sponsor companies to come down and act as mentors. At the end of our project periods, the committee and the volunteers enjoy a night of laser tag and dinner as we celebrate the conclusion of another project period.
Apart from our popular projects, we also run many tech workshops and other tech events throughout the year, ranging from hackathons to games nights and quiz nights. Our annual industry networking night also is a fantastic opportunity to network with incredible tech company representatives and recruiters. It typically runs during March, right in the middle of the internship and graduate program applications period, giving our students a fantastic opportunity to learn how application processes work. Regrettably, we have been unable to host one this year due to concerns over the COVID-19 restrictions. However, we are striving and working on making 2023’s industry night greater than ever with representatives from your favourite companies!
As we approach the end of another successful year, we reflect on the difficulties CFC’s founders endured to establish and grow our club. While CFC has overcome these challenges and matured into one of the most well-known tech clubs at UWA and the wider Perth tech community, we haven’t stopped facing challenges, which we will undoubtedly overcome. Recently, and very regrettably, CFC’s club room tenancy has ended, and we are in the process of finding a new clubroom to host our coders as we prepare to say goodbye to our beloved clubroom of six years. Despite these challenges, we are excited to see what 2023 will bring.
If you are a computer science or software engineering student looking to make a real and tangible difference for not-for-profit and charity organisations, I highly encourage you to apply to one of our winter or summer projects. Web development is the most in-demand skill in the tech industry right now. Even, if you’re not planning to work in a tech firm, web development is still beneficial, as every modern company needs a website.