With over 22,000 full time undergraduate students at McGill and limited course registration, the first few weeks of January—also known as the add/drop period—can be stressful. After forgetting to check Minerva one time too many, Noah Lackstein, a U2 Management student at McGill, developed the app Get A Seat to make the add/drop period easier.
“I’m terrible at remembering to do things, and I was trying to get into a course last Winter and I just never checked Minerva,” said Lackstein. “It would be midnight and I would be getting into bed and I would realize, ‘Oh shoot, I forgot to check if I can get into this course that I want.’”
In response to this problem, Lackstein wrote an app that would send him an email to remind him when space opened up in the classes into which he was trying to enrol. Lackstein was surprised when his friends asked if they, too, could use the app after they saw how well it worked. Due to the growing interest in his program, he decided to take the time over the break to make the app available to all McGill students.
“When I get into Bronfman I see tons of students lined up to see advisors to try to get into a course,” said Lackstein. “I felt that clearly, there was a market for this [app].”
Get A Seat is not the first app Lackstein has designed. In 2008, he started a website for music enthusiasts. Although he is no longer actively involved with the site, it has expanded to over 160,000 active users.
“I’ve been programming since grade five,” Lackstein said. “I was always fascinated with websites—how you get them on the Internet, how they work. My elementary school had a course that taught you how to make a website; and from there, I knew enough to look on the Internet and teach myself.”
This passion for programming was a major factor in the development of Get A Seat.
“I’d say [I worked on it for] about 100 hours over the break,” said Lackstein. “It was a good break from my break. [As] I had not done much programming over the past few years, this was a good way to get back into it.”
The app is designed to provide students with a simple method of monitoring their course registration and class availability. Lackstein entered all of the course information from McGill, so that when students type in the course information that they want and click submit, the app will pull down all the sections that are offered for the course.
“Three sections might fit your schedule, for instance,” said Lackstein. “At most, every five or six minutes the app will check who has dropped the course. If [the app] finds out that any section that you wanted to be notified about have opened up, [it] will send you a notification, text message, or email.”
Lackstein released Get A Seat on Dec 28 2013, and since then, over 870 students have signed up for the app. While the app was free until last Tuesday night, to cover the costs of running it, Lackstein is now charging students two dollars to sign up for the program.
“Next semester, I hope to partner up with a used book exchange,” said Lackstein. “If I get you into a course, you will need the books for [it]. If I can get those to you [through a partnership], I can make the app free for students and have the app sponsored by used book companies. That would be much better for the students, and that would be much better for me.”
With the success of the app, Lackstein is looking to bring it to Concordia in the Fall, with the hopes of eventually expanding across Canada and to the U.S.
For more information and to download the app, visit https://getaseat.ca.