BKV, education, youth – what makes a teenager app developer?
22. November 2015. The date is mostly important because on this day I had the chance to participate at a globally known event where young (and a little older) geniuses could present themselves before the general public, allowing 500 visitors to take a look at their work and principles. During the event called TEDxYouth@Budapest I meet Bálint between two stages, and as we were having our conversation, I even managed to find out (among other things) what the key is to being a successful 19-year old.
Bálint Mérő: The whole thing started in elementary school when I thought that I wanted to become an event organizer: I really love planning things, and as a young, enthusiastic pupil I also adored being the leader of the group. I expressly enjoyed putting events together, coordinating people, and all this resulted in the fact that as the president of the student council of my elementary school me and my mates started to organize a school program. However, I realized even back then what my other great love was: computer science. The process of writing programs and the possibility of creating a working artefact practically out of nothing fascinated me!
How did this realiztaion influence your further studies?
Bálint Mérő: Event organization became a little less important and I started to go to Neumann János Secondary School of Computer Technology where everything is about information technology but I didn’t give up my other dream either.
I like to try alternative things which are never or very rarely made real by others – for instance, combining organization and IT. This is why I joined last year the National Association of Student Researchers (Kutató Diákok Országos Szövetsége, KutDiák), where I am one of the managing directors, and I also entered the Electrical Engineering Students’ Hungarian Association (MAVE) as well.
The creation of an application —or simply app —is similar to (or at least this is what I think) Dalí’s deliquescent clock. The keyboard represents the colors, your fingers are your painting brushes, and on the screen you can see your painting being born stroke by stroke. Are you driven by inspiration or do you stick to given rules while working?
Bálint Mérő: I like programming in a really creative way and what I prefer most is when I don’t work on commission, when I can carry out, code my own ideas — sometimes it happens that I don’t program anything for days. Then all of a sudden, an image comes to my mind, I plan the interface in my head, contrive the functions, and finally I sit down and code the whole thing. But, of course, it can be the other way around: people come to me with concrete plans and I have to realize these plans. Luckily, most of my jobs gave me complete liberty and I could add personal touch to them.
Among other things, you created an app for the BKV-Watcher blog as well, and this year you came up with a software that is quite clever!
Yes, the idea of “Redmenta,” which is an app that helps teachers and whose slogan is “Tests without red pen,” was born after the BKV-watcher application. While the BKV-watcher application’s focus is the capital’s public transport, the concept of “Redmenta” is based on the reinterpretation of an old proverb according to which it is testing and not practice that makes master. I work on this project (among others) with Dávid Király who is the editor of the BKV-Watcher site and with whom I created my first social app. As for “Redmenta,” he is our communication agent. Apart from him, there are Ádám Bordás (who’s merely 17 years old) and Attila Mizsányi (40) in our team.
Tell us a little bit more about Redmenta, please!
Bálint Mérő: “Redmenta” is an online application which allows teachers to easily create, upload, and share exercises with their students who can solve these on the same interface, and the program automatically evaluates and scores their answers, so pupils can immediately see their solutions and mistakes. Out of “Redmenta’s” many functions, there is a particularly important one: if a teacher makes a given exercise public, other professors will be able to see, use, or even incorporate it into their own exam papers. We wish to design a software that fits tightly, that can be integrated into our system of public education. “Redmenta’s” biggest advantage is that teachers don’t have to learn new things and schools don’t have to buy new tools since it is available from every mobile phone. An important aspect is that “Redmenta” works with the teacher and not instead of the teacher.
Since the program’s interface is pronouncedly simple, and the infrastructure it requires is probably available in most Hungarian schools by now, chances are high that teachers will welcome it positively. What about students?
From the students’ point of view, one of the great advantages of “Redmenta” is that they are also able to put tests together for themselves or for each other — this is a good opportunity for practice. Of course, not everyone will be impressed by that, so I’d say that the biggest benefit of this software is the possibility to access it from their mobile phones or tablets. With the program’s help, they can write quizzes and prepare for the real exam within their own comfort zones. This way we spare them a lot of stress.
Are there many people who are already using it?
Bálint Mérő: It’s been three months that we introduced the program and today it has more than 1000 users. Our aim is to make it present in every Hungarian school, and that people use it in various places of the world. To our luck, companies, foundations, private schools are also interested in “Redmenta,” so people working in public education can use it for free.
What is your own credo with Redmenta?
Bálint Mérő: Personally, as a student, I work on this software because if we can give teachers a tool that they like to use and not only learn to use on the occasion of a vocational training program, then they can offer it to us, pupils during their classes. And as someone who has just passed their maturity exams, I know exactly what students expect and what teachers need to fulfill these expectations.
Bálint’s is a great success story. Do you have one, too? Send it to us to email@example.com
Pictures were retrieved from the site of TedYouth Budapest
Written by Bálint Fülep
Translated by Mária Kenesei