Egyptian Drill Program

Posted by Posted by Chris Yu on 2019-9-20

Screenshot of Drill Program

The Egyptian Drill program is a project I worked on during the summer of my junior year, and a bit during the summer of my senior year of high school. It was a project where I had a strong grasp over the technical side but not the actual content. I think it was a valuable experience in learning to develop applications that in areas that I knew almost nothing about.

Like the beginning of an adventure novel, I received a letter from my friend Andrew's grandfather, Mr. Robert Cowen Jr., who had studied Egyptian hieroglyphs and had written a book on the subject, An Egyptian Primer. Andrew referred him to me when he heard that his grandfather was looking for a developer to help him out. I was tasked with writing an application to help readers of his book practice their Egyptian vocabulary. He said that he hired a programmer almost a decade ago to write a desktop application to do the same thing, but his computer had crashed and the program was lost. However, the actual vocabulary words were safe and easily readable inside an XML file, so I decided to code a simple webapp in express.js. I began working immediately, but I soon ran into a small problem: I didn’t understand hieroglyphs at all.

While I set up the basic functionality of the review structure fairly quickly, what I thought would be a one and done little program became a project that almost took me two summers to complete, making small changes and corrections to formatting and the original data. Many emails were exchanged between Mr. Cowen and myself, and I still remember working on the project in a dimly lit AirBNB during my first Anime Expo, making corrections.

I made a lot of mistakes through the process of working on this project, but I definitely learned a lot about attention to detail, working with people, and my own workflow. I've matured a lot as a developer since I started the project a year ago, and I definitely would have done a ton of things differently had I worked on it today. Nonetheless, I did really enjoy working with Mr. Cowen, and it's not everyday that you get to write an application dealing with Egyptian hieroglyphs.

You can access the program and Mr. Cowen's book here. Enjoy!