Michael Latman (Friends, ’14) and several of his classmates were standing in line one morning this fall waiting to sign in at the school’s front desk when an idea came to him. “I said to my friend, ‘Why don’t they just make a phone app so you can check in from anywhere on campus?’” Latman recalled. Mere weeks later, such an app had fully replaced the old-fashioned paper and pen check-in system at Friends Upper School. The mastermind behind the mobile device? Latman.
Barely into his junior year at Friends, he designed, tested, and implemented his concept of a mobile-device application and ancillary web-based check-in system after getting buy-in from the school’s administration, quickly resolving the problem of students forming long lines at the school’s front office every morning. Sounds incredibly savvy for a high school student. But for Latman, it was business as usual.
Latman’s father, who owns a tech company, introduced the teenager to computers when he was a toddler. “By the time I was five or six years old I was programming websites. By eight or nine, I released a commercial product online” said the composed, soft-spoken high school student. The product developed by the then-preteen, for a small online firm, consisted of a customer relations tool that allowed the company to organize contact information for clients online. Though the self-taught computer whiz clearly has a penchant for computer programming, he also seems to possess an equally strong sense of clients’ needs.
“He asked me what we needed and worked directly with me and Steve McManus [Friends Upper School principal] to create it” said Molly Doyle, Friends Upper School’s administrative assistant, referring to the app-based check-in system. “He saw that there was a problem, and provided a solution without want of any compensation,” she added. Now, upper school students who are within 100 feet of the main office can sign in virtually with a mobile device. Students who happen to be without one can check in electronically via an iPad kiosk at the front office, donated by Latman.
Latman says he’s satisfied with the outcome of his new check-in system, but claims he’s not done making upgrades to the school’s systems overall. Working with a small cohort of fellow Friends students, Latman is planning to replace the school’s current electronic organization system for faculty and students, a commercially available product used by many area schools, with something new and improved. Latman says his new system will offer improved photo galleries, more relevant and personalized information to students, and other perks.
“I’m doing the back-end work, the planning and infrastructure,” he said, sounding like a seasoned CEO of a tech company. “This is planned to be a commercial product.”
Asked if his formal education has had an impact on his technology prowess, Latman responds that, aside from a coding language book he was given “way back”, he’s pretty much a self-taught technology guru. Though Friends hasn’t educated Latman on how to develop sophisticated computer applications, he acknowledges it has given him the opportunity to pursue his talent.
“They’re very open to innovation here,” Latman said.