Main goal: To eliminate the shortcomings of iClickers and add functionality to the common engagement app.
What it does
AttEnd is the brainchild of four students at the Pennsylvania State University: sophomore Ethan Graper and juniors Fatih Celep, James Brannen, and Peter Giammanco. Conceived with the idea to create an app to overcome the pitfalls of clickers and other student engagement tools, our vision is to create an app that not only tracks each student's attendance, but also offers functionality in the fields of student responses, including but not limited to quick response times and short answer questions (utilizing smartphone keyboards).
How we built it
We started developing with Visual Studio and then switched to Xcode after realizing some limitations. The ease of Xcode allowed us to seamlessly create the foundation of our app while teaching us more about common application development concepts and techniques. We also utilized Google's Firebase service, which is a free database / development assistant that made user authentication a cinch. We spent the majority of our time developing the application in Xcode and assuring that our pages were properly connected.
Challenges we ran into
Our first challenge (and easily our biggest) was that none of our members initially knew anything about app development. A significant amount of time was spent choosing how to make the app. A lot of options and factors were taken into consideration, including language complexity, ease of access, prices, implementation methods, cross-platform compatibility, and user-friendliness. Finally, the obvious challenge for our Hackathon project was that we were limited to 24 hours to learn the app development process of our choosing, practice it, and then utilize it to create a working app. We actually planned to make two versions of the app; one for Android and one for iOS, but we eventually scrapped this idea as it was way too overzealous to implement in a mere 24 hours. We didn't manage to create the app as we envisioned, but the process of learning and implementing application development skills were fundamental to our experience at HackPSU this year.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Although we didn't manage to finish our application in its full form, we managed to collaboratively create the framework for our first application and learn a lot more about the field of software development. We spent the night developing the application and laying down the groundwork to allow for all of our ideas about what we want Att End to be to come to fruition. This was our first experience with application development, and although we didn't finish development within 24 hours, we plan to expand upon this experience and maybe one day fully realize this application's capabilities.
What we learned
The entire process, from conception of the app to completion of our first few pages in Xcode (including a sign-up / sign-in screen with backing from Google Firebase), has taught the group a tremendous amount about both front-end and back-end application development, Xcode, Visual Studio, and other software development tools and techniques.
What's next for AttEnd?
In the future, we'd like to actually make the attendance feature work, as well as include short-answer responses and more advanced attendance checking policies (i.e individual procedurally generated passwords required to sign into a session, number of missed lectures, etc.). We would plan for the app to replace clickers and even serve as a platform for in-class quizzes. A page with extensive statistics on a user's performance and attendance would help students consistently attend class. Our plans also include adding a class discussion page similar to the likes of Piazza. The best version of our app would be able to replace clickers, Canvas, and Piazza all in one place while providing even more features.
Once this is done, we would love to implement cross-platform functionality to fully realize our vision of making the app easy to use for all students, as most everyone these days has some form of smartphone. Finally, in the future, we would like to see the app take on a more general role, with support for other fields including but not limited to business administration, workplace collaboration, and general polling and attendance for the common consumer.