Pranav Somu develops database software for Foster Closet – The Madison Record

MADISON — Pranav Somu, a junior at James Clemens High School, developed software to help match resources to needs at North Alabama Foster Closet.

James Clemens’ teacher, Emily Harris, volunteers with Foster Closet and knew her students’ talents and interest in creating solutions to real-world problems.

The Foster Closet is a volunteer-run nonprofit community resource for foster, adoptive, and related families in North Alabama. The organization responds to tangible needs with new or gently used clothing, shoes, coats, furniture, equipment and supplies.

In the summer of 2020, Foster Closet approached James Clemens, looking to build an online database application. The proposal interested Pranav, who had taken courses and programming competitions and had a growing passion for computing.

“I knew a little about foster care, but honestly had no idea how important foster care was or how it worked,” Pranav said. After some reading, Pranav soon realized “how crucial foster care is in providing a safe and stable environment for children who cannot stay with their parents for some unfortunate reason.”

“More than 400,000 children are in foster care across the country, which highlights the importance of keeping the foster care system healthy,” Pranav said. “Less than three percent of foster children graduate from college. About 20% end up becoming homeless.

Fifty percent of new foster parents drop out within a year due to inadequate supply.

Pranav logged over 300 hours, developing thousands of lines of code for the project. “Creating this app was a great opportunity to work on a real-world problem and give back to the community, while learning so many new skills and hands-on experiences,” Pranav said.

Foster Closet used a huge Google form with thousands of disorganized entries. This process has become obsolete with an increase in the number of clients and extremely slow computer response.

Building his app was the best way to help virtually during quarantine. Pranav’s goal was more streamlined communication to/from families, tracking of applications, and easier data collection/manipulation for grants – with little to no cost to Foster Closet.

Pranav’s software can help extend reach, launch large-scale projects, and increase impact in the host community.

While developing this application, Pranav learned many new programming skills. He implemented the web framework, Django, for resources and connections for all required components. He built the front-end (which people use to interact with the app) with Javascript, CSS, HTML, and Django Template Language.

Pranav said the back-end has two main parts:

* Data storage and management. — Using the PostgreSQL database, Pranav learned SQL for configuration and general management.

* General and logical background processing – Using Python software.

“For testing and evaluation, I host the application on the Ubuntu virtual machine provided by DigitalOcean. Gunicorn, Nginx and other helper software to run and secure the application,” Pranav.

Maria H. Underwood