Data, data, data. The modern world is all about data, with data science and machine learning being buzzwords in our modern society. As a team, we really wanted to combine these two primary topics: beaches (due to the hackathon's theme) and data. Having a goal to not only make data more accessible, we also wanted to develop a method to easily visualise, access and save beach data.

What it does?

Our platform has two primary functions:

  1. to provide a method for users to easily search for and save beaches they like and
  2. to provide an API for developers to easily access beach data. Our platform allows users to search for beaches by location or ratings and save them to their account. We also provide some enjoyable beach themed music for users to listen to!

How we made it?

As a team, we decided to use MERN stack (MongoDB, Express, React and Node), a tech stack which most of us had some experience with. Some of our teammates had no experience with MERN stack, however they were very keen learners and rapidly became comfortable with it. We divided into two primary subgroups to work on the different aspects of the website: frontend and backend. First, we created a simple Rest API (which can easily be queried by developers), using the Google Places API to provide us with beach data. Then we developed the frontend and integrated it with the backend, allowing a user to easily search beaches (with multiple filters, such as location and ratings). Finally, we created an authentication system, using Firebase, allowing the user to login and save beaches they like. With any additional time, we decided to add some beach themed music (using the react video player).

Challenges we faced

Being an incredibly international team had a whole host of advantages, however, it also had some challenges. Having large time zone differences (4h+) resulted in occasional miscommunications. Integrating the Google Places API with the filters was also very challenging and time consuming.

Accomplishments we're proud of

Our project was ambitious and required a huge range of skills, ranging from user authentication, API integration, UI/ UX and many more essential topics in software development and tech. We are genuinely proud of having completed the entire very ambitious project in just a weekend! We have also interacted with many potential users and have allowed them to discover local beaches (for example, there are beaches even in central London) and have gained some great feedback!

What we learned

We really learned a huge amount, not only improving our technical knowledge (MERN stack, UI/UX, security, git...) but also our collaboration, communication and writing skills. We also learned time management, the importance of focusing on the absolutely critical elements of a project before worrying about the small details and so much more. It really was a great learning experience!

What's next for BeachFinder

We believe that Beach Finder has huge potential in providing easily accessible data and allowing users to discover, explore and enjoy local beaches. We will complete the development sections of BeachFinder and we hope that we can continue to grow, provide more beach data services and perform more advanced machine learning analysis on reviews to potentially allow us to provide metrics on the beaches' environmental sustainability.

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