You may have downloaded the Blocks app this past fall, either to exchange kindness messages with friends, to try to win a Chick-fil-A gift card, or simply to stay on top of your schedule. The app, which is unique to Lexington High School’s schedule, was created last year by Ben Borgers, a senior at LHS.
Borgers originally thought of the idea at the end of his sophomore year when the school first decided to switch from their old daily schedule to the new six day schedule.
“People were kind of confused about the new schedule and how it would go, and I was thinking maybe I can make an app for this that might be helpful,” Borgers said.
Despite doubts that the app wouldn’t be received well, LHS students quickly downloaded the app, dismissing Borgers’ uncertainty.
“The fact that somebody wanted it motivated me because someone using something you made is a nice feeling,” Borgers said.
Borgers first gained interest in coding through a freshman class he took on computer science.
“In my class we did a little unit on making websites with HTML and CSS, and I just really liked it. It somehow clicked with the way my brain works I think just out of luck and that’s what really got me into it,” Borgers said.
While a lot of people have been starting to code because of the increasing demand for programmers in the workforce, Borgers believes people need to be passionate and have ambition to create something in order to ultimately be successful.
“It’s less about writing the code but more about creating something that people will use and enjoy,” Borgers said.
Even with the craziness of the new schedule and alternating cohorts this year, Borgers has been able to successfully create a schedule that accommodates all the changes. By meeting with staff members who had helped create the schedule and attending town meetings, he ensured the schedule on Blocks is always up-to-date.
Sometimes, however, things go wrong. For example, once last year the Blocks app was ten minutes off the school clock. While it didn’t disrupt anyone’s day drastically, it made Borgers realize just how many people rely on the app.
“It’s an interesting thing to know that it’s not going to ruin anyone’s life if it’s not working, but it’s not a good thing if it stops working and I don’t like it,” Borgers said.
Borgers is constantly looking to incorporate new, relevant features into Blocks. This past Thanksgiving, he created a system through which “kindness messages” could be sent and received anonymously between users.
“I think I got the idea from some French classes that were sending each other kind messages and I just thought that was super wholesome and super cute, and people seemed to like them because it just betters your day,” Borgers said.
In total, the school collectively sent over 16,000 messages and many students asked to keep the kindness messages for the entire year. However, Borgers remained resolute with only keeping the portal open until Thanksgiving.
“My thought is always I’d rather go out with a bang than a whimper, so I’d rather people remember it in a good way than letting it trail off over time and having nobody use it anymore.” Borgers said.
Instead, Borgers planned on releasing similar interactive activities later on.
In the beginning of 2020, LHS won a Chick-fil-A giveaway on Instagram, receiving 200 Chick-fil-A gift cards.
The gift cards were not distributed until the start of this school year, when LHS social worker Martha Queenin gave them to the incumbent junior class president, Elena Sabin, who was unsure of how to distribute the cards before the December expiration date. Borgers messaged her asking if he could do a giveaway on Blocks, to which Sabin said yes.
“I put them up and again, I was scared no one was going to do it. I was up in the morning, making it go live and watching four people spin and I was like, ‘oh god this is going to be such a flop’, because I never have confidence in the fact that it’s going to be used,” Borgers said.
But the gift cards were a big hit, with Borgers delivering all of the 200 bundles to the individual houses himself that week.
Next year, as Borgers graduates and continues his life at Tufts University, he is unsure of the fate of the Blocks app.
“I don’t have plans for that, because I think that part of the thing that makes it nice and good is that I am in the school and when stuff changes, I’m there and the fun side bits are more fun because I can feel the vibe of what’s going on and I’m in it, so I don’t think it would be good if I remotely operate.” Borgers said.
While not much has been set in stone for the future yet, Blocks will certainly be around for the remainder of the year, continuing to support students in navigating their unusual schedules.