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Globalhack - HelpOverflow

Description:

Globalhack was a hackathon in St. Louis, Missouri. The competition was held Oct. 12th - 14th at Chaifetz Arena. This was the first hackathon I attended that required travel to a different state. While I didn't get to do much site-seeing due to hacking, I was able to catch a glimpse of the St. Louis arch :). Before I arrived, I talked to people online about forming a team. I ended up working with a very talented team consisting of people from Oklahoma State University and Butler Community College (Wichita, KS). The topic for the hackathon was desiging technology for improving the quality of life for foreign-born people in the greater St. Louis area. To address the topic, our team came up with a mobile application called HelpOverflow (similar to the popular website StackOverflow). Here's a quick write-up of our submission: (taken from DevPost https://devpost.com/software/help-2-be-hepled)

Inspiration

Foreign peoples are skilled. We give them a platform to showcase their skills and trade them for other skills. This allows foreign born peoples to build community, learn new skills, and trade points for services. Language is a key focus of our platform - pages can be translated to multiple different platforms and users can query services based on language. To make the application accessible to the majority of individuals, it is optimized for use on smartphones.

What It Does

HelpOverflow helps connect foreign born peoples with others that can perform skilled services. Performing a skilled service earns the user Favor Points. Favor Points can then be spent for other favors. For instance, say I'm a foreign-born individual that is new to the US. I don't know anybody, but I am great at cooking. I could search for somebody that wants to learn to cook. In exchange, they could perhaps help me learn English.

How We Built It

To build HelpOverflow, we utilized multiple popular web development technologies including node.js, react, bootstrap, css3, html5, and firebase. We split the roles on our team into back-end and front-end development, and worked towards making a unified platform.

Challenges

Our team has a wide array of development knowledge,so not all of us know the same web development technologies. Therefore, many team members spent a lot of time learning the new technologies. While this presents a challenge in implementing the website, it is also a huge benefit because it's a great learning experience! We also had one major technical challenge occur halfway through day two, which was trying to implement an API for translation. Knowing that our aim was to improve the lives of immigrant/foreign speaking communities, we felt that being able to customize the language was essential. Unfortunately, once we added this functionality we realized that it basically broke our app, which we didn't appreciate.

Accomplishments

The largest accomplishment was creating a solid start of a web application. There was lots of learning along the way. Most of our team had never made a dynamic website before, and never made a mobile-optimized site. At the end, we all gained a better understanding of mobile development.

Learning

The learning aspect of the hackathon project is huge: we all gained a new level of understanding of mobile focused web application development. Most of us had never used either react or node.js before beginning the project.

Next Steps

While the app has significant functionality, it is currently in a proof of concept form for demonstration purposes. The next step is to transition the implementation of the app more towards a scalable and deployable mobile application.