Brendon Smith

Udacity training

Udacity logo SVG

Full Stack Web Developer

This was the first training program I did. Here are some highlights from my work in the program:


Udacity introduces key information and skills in lessons prior to each project.

Break timer

Code on GitHub

This was my first milestone as a computer programmer.

When I began learning Python syntax in the Full Stack Web Developer Nanodegree program, progress was slow, and it was difficult to express myself. It felt very much like the mental exhaustion of practicing a spoken language. The Udacity introductory materials actually recommended that I start with a beginner Nanodegree program first, but I knew that with my motivation and education, I could fill in the gaps in my knowledge and competency. I kept at it and didn’t let myself get discouraged.

I got to an exercise in which I had to create a break timer. The timer opens a YouTube video every two hours, to encourage people to take a break while working on the computer. I wrote the code independently, then checked the instructor’s solution.

When adding a loop to the break counter, I came up with a more efficient way to write the program by using a for loop instead of a while loop, reducing the required amount of code from eight lines to five. My code demonstrated that I had learned to think independently and write code in the most efficient and Pythonic way.

My Python code:

# My break timer
import time
import webbrowser

for i in range(4):
    time.sleep(2 * 60 * 60)

Instructor’s Python code:

# Instructor's break timer
import time
import webbrowser

total_breaks = 4
break_count = 0

while break_count < total_breaks:
    time.sleep(2 * 60 * 60)
    break_count = break_count + 1

I realized the significance of this exercise because I had learned about computing history. I thought about how Bill Gates and Paul Allen’s major accomplishment while at Harvard was writing a BASIC interpreter for the Altair in 3.2 kilobytes of text, leaving memory free to write other programs and launching the personal computing software industry. Walter Isaacson’s article on this topic, “Dawn of a revolution,” (Harvard Gazette 201309), and the corresponding book, The innovators, were key parts of my computing curriculum.

Computer memory is less limiting today, but we still have to write code efficiently, especially when it is accessed over the web through Content Distribution Networks (CDNs). This is why we use code minification for web distribution.

Turtle graphics

Code on GitHub

Instead of just drawing a shape, I imported a gif for the background, and looped through a colorspace to create a psychedelic effect.

Python code:

# Turtle graphics
import turtle
import colorsys

def spiral_into_the_grid():
    """Use turtle graphics to create a colorful spiral."""
    turtle.setup(width=1600, height=900)
    window = turtle.Screen()

    for i in range(1250):
        colors = colorsys.hsv_to_rgb(i / 1250, 1.0, 1.0)




Turtle graphics mini-project final image

Profanity checker

Code on GitHub

I wrote a program that analyzes text files, and shows an alert when profanity is detected. I adapted the code for Python 3 and made it as concise as possible. When I realized there was a more effective way to write the program with the Requests module, I learned about it and rewrote my code.

Input from movie_quotes.txt:

-- Houston, we have a problem. (Apollo 13)

-- Mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. (Forrest Gump)

-- You cant handle the truth. (A Few Good Men)

-- I believe everything and I believe nothing. (A Shit in the Dark)

Python code:

# Profanity checker

import requests

def read_text():
    """Read the contents of a text file."""
    quotes = open("movie_quotes.txt")
    contents_of_file =

def check_profanity(text_to_check):
    """Check the text file for profanity."""
    # Web query
    r = requests.get("" + text_to_check)
    # Output
    if "true" in r.text:
        print("Profanity Alert!")
    elif "false" in r.text:
        print("This document has no curse words!")
        print("Could not scan the document properly.")



-- Houston, we have a problem. (Apollo 13)

-- Mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. (Forrest Gump)

-- You cant handle the truth. (A Few Good Men)

-- I believe everything and I believe nothing. (A Shit in the Dark)
Profanity Alert!


The Full Stack Web Developer Nanodegree program is focused on projects, in which students can independently implement what they have learned in the lessons.

When coding projects, I keep computational narratives describing what I do at each step, like journals or lab notebooks. I learned how to keep computational narratives from scientific computing in Jupyter Notebook/JupyterLab and RMarkdown. Computational narratives capture my train of thought, so I can retrace my steps, retain what I have learned, and teach others. Computational narratives for these projects are available in their GitHub repositories.

Project 1. Python web server

Code on GitHub

Python web server screenshot

For my first project, I created a Python web server that serves a movie trailer website. The Python code stores a list of movies, including artwork and trailers, and serves the data to a local webpage with HTML and CSS. I personalized it with a film noir theme, and wrote a mini-review for each movie. I passed code review with only minor corrections.

Project 2. Designer mockup

Code on GitHub


Portfolio website screenshot

The website you’re at now began as my second project for the Udacity Full Stack Web Developer nanodegree program. We were provided with a design mockup (screenshot) of a developer portfolio webpage, and had to replicate the design with HTML and CSS. I based the webpage styling on Bootstrap 4. After replicating the design, I was able to add extensive customization, including a toggle button that uses jQuery JavaScript to change the page color scheme. I then built the single webpage into a full website with Jekyll, and hosted it on GitHub Pages. I extended the Udacity website to create this website.

Project 3. Database analysis

Code on GitHub

Database analysis thumbnail

For this project, I wrote a Python program, containing SQL queries, to extract information from a database of news articles with over a million rows. The SQL queries contain advanced joins, selection, and calculation features. The results of the three queries are returned in plain text with Pythonic formatting.

I passed initial code review with no required corrections. The reviewer made some helpful suggestions, and I incorporated them into my code.

Project 4. Brendon’s bodybuilding bazaar

Code on GitHub

Flask app screenshot simulating iPhone 6S with Firefox Developer Tools

I was able to bring together my work on Python, databases, and websites to create a full web application. The app is called “Brendon’s Bodybuilding Bazaar” and features a catalog of items useful for bodybuilding, along with an awesome classic picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu. I used the Python micro-framework Flask to control the app, and a SQLite database to hold information for the catalog. Users can sign in with Google. After signing in, users can add items and categories to the catalog. The creator of each item or category can also edit or delete it. The app’s API (Application Programming Interface) provides catalog data in JSON format. I passed Udacity code review with no required corrections, and the reviewer commended me for my work on the project.

Project 5. Boston’s best beans

Code on GitHub

JavaScript map screenshot

This project required me to create a navigation web app that combines data from multiple APIs. I decided to theme the app after another one of my favorite things, specialty coffee. I started by using the Google Maps Platform to generate a map. Google Maps lacks an API for place lists, so I used the Foursquare API to retrieve places and their data. I used the Knockout framework to bind the JavaScript code with the webpage, so click events can trigger changes on the map. Functions run in response to click events, and the location list can be filtered by city. I went beyond the project’s requirements to implement ES6+ JavaScript features, like Fetch, Async/Await, and array methods. Again, I passed Udacity code review with complements from the reviewer and no required corrections.

The Boston’s best beans list is also available on Foursquare.

Project 6. Linux server configuration and app deployment

Code on GitHub

App was deployed to Linux Apache server at

Server project logos: Flask, Ubuntu, Apache

For my final project, I configured an Ubuntu Linux server instance on DigitalOcean and deployed the Flask app from project 4 onto the server.

Nanodegree completion

Nanodegree certificate screenshot

I’m a full stack web developer! I completed the Nanodegree program in June 2018. I put about ten months of work into this program, and came out with a solid set of skills. Full stack web developers work on all aspects of websites and apps, from front end (features that users see) to back end (servers and databases). In this program, I built skills including:

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Grow with Google

Udacity Grow with Google scholarship award


I won a scholarship from Udacity and Google. Grow with Google is an initiative to help people make career changes into coding. I was accepted to the intermediate web developer track to learn techniques for building progressive web apps. There was a three month challenge round, after which the top participants move on to a more advanced Mobile Web Specialist program.

Here’s how it went down:


Grow with Google meetup at Boston Public Library, February 24, 2018

Grow with Google meetup at Boston Public Library, February 24, 2018

Grow with Google meetup in Watertown, March 24, 2018

Grow with Google meetup in Watertown, March 24, 2018

Grow with Google meetup at MIT, March 24, 2018

Grow with Google meetup at MIT, March 24, 2018

Grow with Google meetup at MIT, March 29, 2018

Grow with Google meetup at MIT March 29, 2018

Grow with Google meetup at MIT, April 7, 2018

Grow with Google meetup at MIT April 7, 2018


MBTAccess app screenshot simulating iPhone X

Source code on GitHub

The Grow with Google meetups led us to develop an app together.

We found some common interest in transportation apps. MBTA recently released their MBTA V3 API that provides public transportation data in JSON API format. One of the under-utilized datasets in their API is the wheelchair accessibility of the stops. Google Maps had recently started providing wheelchair accessibility info, but their implementation is not particularly extensive.

We aim to create a web app that quickly and conveniently identifies wheelchair accessible stops near the user. The project has been productive, and has given us great experience managing a team through GitHub.

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Mobile Web Specialist

I won a full scholarship to the Udacity Mobile Web Specialist Nanodegree program after completing the Grow with Google challenge course and ranking in the top 10% of 10,000 students. They announced scholarship winners on April 17, 2018.

Udacity Google Mobile Web Specialist scholarship email

Restaurant reviews

Code on GitHub

Udacity Google Mobile Web Specialist screenshot

Mobile Web Specialists are trained in building Progressive Web Apps (PWAs, see Google, Mozilla, and Medium). PWAs are like a combination of web apps and native apps, improving on the best features of each.

In the Udacity Mobile Web Specialist Nanodegree program, I built a restaurant reviews PWA that displays restaurant locations and info. The app provides offline access through the Service Worker, IndexedDB, and web manifest files. Users can add favorites and reviews for restaurants. If changes are made offline, they sync to the web server when network access is restored.

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