High schoolers hack their class schedules thanks to WikiRoster

Jason Lin is a recent graduate of Illinois' IMSA, the state-funded boarding school known for producing startup geniuses like the guy who founded OK Cupid or one of the guys who founded Yelp. While he was still in high school, Lin—with the help of fellow students Kendrick Lau and Jung Oh—created WikiRoster, a website designed to help high school students share their class schedules and decipher what other periods or courses might fit into their schedules.

Then [Lin] realized that if every student entered their schedule into a database, everyone could see what everyone else was taking. That seems like a business opportunity — and he brought the idea to Lau, a friend then at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Illinois. “We didn’t know any web programming,” Lin says. “I’d done some object-oriented programming, but never any PHP or anything. So we started learning together.”

They built the site over the summer. Lin and Lau launched the site in August 2012, initially just for IMSA and Glenbrook students, after about two months of work. Then, one morning, Lin woke up to an email from Oh, another student at Glenbrook. “Hey,” it said, “I can hack into your site and log in as anyone I want.” Oh helped fix the problem, and Lin and Lau soon invited him to join the team.

The students continued to work on the project on evenings and weekends. IMSA gives students a free day each week to pursue internships or self-directed projects, but Lin’s free day was already taken. He was interning at a Chicago-area startup called Better Weekdays. That, however, fed WikiRoster in a different way. “It was a great experience,” he says, “It taught me a lot about how to run my own startup.”

When I was a senior in high school, I got to (had to?) make my own schedule. I was told that AP Stat wouldn't fit and that I either had to choose another course or, if I wanted to put in the effort, sit down and make it fit. I spent an afternoon in the guidance counsellor's office juggling course ID numbers and texting friends to find out who had what with who and when.

It probably would have been easier to just log in to WikiRoster and drag and drop a course into my schedule. Kids these days.

WikiRoster has expanded to include a number of schools in the Chicago area (though it does reach as far as California and Missouri). They want to expand nationwide, but estimate that that process will take approximately two years. [Wired]