Student-developed Branda app debuts to rave reviews
Branda, a mobile application created by Brandeis students for the University community, launched on Thursday. According to the Branda website, it is a “two-sided platform” connecting Brandeis students with essential campus services.
Students can log into the app using their Brandeis email. Users can check the hours of dining facilities, the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center and the library; find major campus events on a calendar; and navigate campus with an integrated Google Map.
Other features include the ability to read BrandeisNOW articles, track and reserve the Branvan, and see if dryers and washers are currently in use in their residence halls. Pressing the “Campus Emergency” button brings the Brandeis Public Safety Emergency line on-screen and ready to dial.
The Branda Terms and Conditions state that the Branda Team is “doing [their] best to make sure that our app is working and helping you, but we provide it as-is and don’t make any promises about anything that it can do.” For example, the laundry machines use the manufacturer's network, making it possible for the Branda laundry tracker to be inaccurate.
The idea for the app began in April 2018, when Benjamin Segal ’20 realized that the inability to find information quickly about campus resources could be solved with a phone application. As Segal said in an interview with the Justice, “It’s okay to complain as long as you take an action.”
Segal called on two friends, Sam Stern ’20 and Anat Kleiman ’20, to begin brainstorming with him. Eventually, the Branda Team, as they call themselves, expanded to include seven current Brandeis students. Segal, Stern and Kleiman are the app developers, while Reese Farquhar ’22 and Ash Taber ’21 serve as web developers, and Aseem Kumar ’20 and Brandon Musto ’20 act as business coordinators.
In an interview with the Justice, Stern said that having seen many “quality-of-life issues” around campus, he chose to join the team when Segal offered him the chance. He continued, “I know a lot of us in the [Computer Science] department want to do something good for our communities, and this app and the issues it addresses are wholly within our power.”
Farquhar had a similar reason for joining the team. He told the Justice, “Even before I came to Brandeis I saw that the Brandeis technology was not at the same level as some other universities.” He explained that he “came to Brandeis inspired to learn how to improve this facet of the University.”
Segal explained that the programmers began developing the user interface in April 2018. The team spent June and July “integrating with Brandeis services and programs.” Over the summer, the team sent out a survey to determine which issues were most important to the student body. According to Segal, the team “used the survey results, talked one-on-one with students and administrators and assessed the campus climate to decide what to prioritize.”
Stern said the feature that gave the app developers the most problem was integrating “the information coming in live” from the Branvan tracker “with the map data that we already had to make something that people could use in a meaningful way.”
Both Segal and Stern also emphasized how Profs. Jordan Pollack (COSI) and Antonella DiLillo (COSI) supported the Branda Team. The Student Union also supported the initiative, as the Community Emergency and Enhancement Fund awarded the team approximately $21,000 for the app, according to the Brandeis University Student Union’s CEEF webpage.
As of Dec. 8, the Google Play Store reports Branda as having a five star rating with over 100 downloads. The Branda website also includes testimonials. Max Meier ’20 wrote, “Branda is a great way of weaving together the various necessities of a Brandeis student. It allows students to have every aspect of the University’s resources at their fingertips and circumvents all the annoying issues of having to use many different web pages.”
According to Stern, his friend and CEEF Board member Tal Richtman ’19 came up with the name “Branda.” The popular Amazon device “Alexa” served as inspiration. In this way, Branda was born — your personal assistant at Brandeis.