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This Code Fellows Alum Wanted an App… So He Learned to Code & Built it Himself

Meet Derek Graham! He learned to code at Code Fellows and created Box-o-matic, an app that creates patterns for users to create their own boxes and containers.

He shares with us where he got the idea for Box-o-matic, how the app works, and his advice for others who want to take their ideas from concept to completion.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Derek! How did you first hear about Code Fellows?

What courses did you take?

What was your favorite part of your time on campus?

You recently launched an app into the App Store — tell us about it!

Where did you come up with the idea for Box-o-matic?

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So I really liked that idea of taking a plan (like that one from Popular Science magazine), loading it into a computer, putting a piece of plywood in a CNC cutter, and getting the parts to make something tangible and occupying 3D space from something that started out as a (mostly) 2D sheet. Especially because the parts would be square and accurate and would properly account for the kerf (the material removed by the cutting process).

Along the way, I have admired the aesthetic of plywood designs like kerf cabinets here in Seattle, and things like the kickstarter printrbot+ 3D printer, other 3d printers, and a variety of kickstarter and Makerfaire projects that were being built with laser- and CNC-cut plywood.

When the MakerHaus opened in Seattle, I joined up so I could use the laser cutter and began experimenting with early web-based tools that could generate patterns for boxes. The one I used was functional but pretty limited, so I started writing custom plugins for VectorWorks, a CAD package I owned. That let me explore code-generated joinery, and made it much easier to customize — like creating open boxes (5 sides) and other variations.

So, when it came time to do my solo project week in the Code Fellows iOS class, I thought I would take a crack at re-implementing some of those same ideas, but in Swift and with the functionality to export to PDF. That was in the summer of 2016 and I’ve spent a lot more time since then re-writing and rounding out the functionality.

How has the launch gone so far?

I also have some features implemented that I need to test before enabling them. I’ve been waiting over two years for a Glowforge (personal laser cutter) and it finally arrived last week. Once I get that set up it will enable me to more quickly iterate, and once that is done I think it will be more interesting.

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What plans do you have for the app going forward?

Writing an app like this has been a great vehicle for me to continue learning Swift and iOS development, as well as exploring UX and UI design ideas.

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Any advice for someone else who has an idea for their own product they’d like to launch?

If someone was considering attending Code Fellows, what would you tell them?

Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Derek! Want to see your ideas come to fruition, too? Join us at an upcoming Code 101 workshop »

Want more great content as you learn to code? See what’s new on the Code Fellows blog »

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