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Room for you on DORMSdb

Mitchell works on his computer in the Forum. Photo by Tela Ebersole.

Room draw just got a little bit easier, thanks to Alex Mitchell ’17. Mitchell recently released his website “DORMSdb” at DORMSdb is a database of all on-campus dorms, allowing students to search for specific rooms by selecting preferences and also reading reviews of the dorms, written by other students.

Mitchell conceived the idea as a side project for him to apply and practice PHP, a type of scripting language used for developing websites.

“It just seemed like something that people would be able to use. I think everybody has that perfect room in mind. For me, I really want to get a three-room double. I think, up until this point, there was no way for people to find that information really easily, unless you just knew it,” Mitchell said. “I just thought it would be really great if people could get together and [contribute information] in a structured way.”

The process of putting together his database was tedious. After printing out all the floor plans online from the Department of Residential Life’s page, he had to manually input each room into his website.

“Some of the floor plans didn’t indicate if it was a double or a single, so I had to either guess or leave it unmarked in the hopes that the community would be able to contribute that. I spent about five hours just entering information, and that was kind of a low point,” Mitchell recalled.

Mitchell has not yet made large efforts to advertise his website, but he hopes that once more students begin contributing to his database, his site will prove to be a useful tool to the student body. Currently, there are 53 registered users to DORMSdb, with many being friends of Mitchell’s who he informed about the site and asked to input ratings on their rooms.

DORMSdb is in its beta stage right now, but is still fully functional. Upon accessing the site, students are brought to the homepage where a checklist appears, allowing students to select certain features, such as air conditioning, whether or not the building has a laundry room, whether or not its building has a printer, which campus it is located on, which floor it’s located on and what type of room they’re looking for (ex. single, double, two-room, etc.). Or, if the user already knows which room he or she wants, he or she can bypass the checklist and simply type in the room number.

In order to fully utilize all of DORMSdb’s resources, guests must make an account with the website. The reason for this is because Mitchell wants to keep track of how many users are contributing information to his site. As long as guests are registered, they can comment on a room, add pictures to the database or review a room for others to know about. Once more students start adding their input onto the site, users can see whether or not past owners of a dorm found their room to be small or get a general sense of the community on the floor in previous years.

Additionally, much like a ‘shopping cart’ in many retail websites, DORMSdb offers users to add rooms in their “myRooms” page, a list of their preferred rooms, allowing users to review their favorite dorms with a single click.

Mitchell is also currently working with someone on a DORMSdb mobile phone application, but wants to keep DORMSdb independent from college management. Mitchell believes that the database can only be most efficient if it stays student-operated.
“I want to keep this as independent as possible. I want to ensure that people leaving comments about the rooms are not censored by the school. I feel like if there was any sort of College involvement it could pose the opportunity for it to become biased,” he said. “I want to encourage honest opinions on rooms.”

If the site becomes a widely used feature by Grinnell students without the College’s interference, Mitchell would be willing to work with the College to potentially to establish a program where room draw is done electronically. He hopes this could make the process of room draw easier for both students and staff.

If students have any suggestions or comments regarding DORMSdb, feel free to contact Mitchell at [mitchell17].

Alex Mitchell - Tela Ebersole
Mitchell works on his computer in the Forum.
Photo by Tela Ebersole.

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