Inspiration

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that many universities are remote/online in the fall semester and potentially the full academic year, we wanted to create a platform called CampusHub for students to talk with each other, connect with like-minded peers and form online student groups. This helps ensure that students feel a sense of belonging and can share in campus culture through online group chats and chat threads for academic classes, majors and similar interests in activities or hobbies such as television shows, books or musical instruments. In addition, we know that many students still wish to be involved in clubs or activities, so clubs and student organizations can post their recruiting or application information directly on the app because in-person tabling and flyering for clubs obviously won’t be effective this year because very few students will be on campus. We hope to tackle the issue of loneliness that many students currently feel as a result of being forced to leave campus and return home. Through CampusHub, we can make friends and connect online and have video calls, hangouts or study sessions directly through the app.

What it does

CampusHub is a mobile app that functions as a centralized platform for university students. When students sign up, they indicate their university and sign up with their .edu email as a means of security verification. The app allows students to join course threads, ask for and answer questions about academic schedules and classes, find clubs and events upon inputting user interests, and form and join study groups with students from their university. Often, different courses have different course threads on multiple platforms like Piazza and Slack. This is extremely inefficient and students often miss out on important messages on these groups since they are spread out over multiple platforms. Not all classes use these messaging apps; many students rely on in-person study groups. A centralized, online platform will provide an efficient alternative to in-person communication for the online semester/academic year. Along with this, student organizations can upload profiles of themselves to the app and add tags that will make it easier to find them. They can also upload events hosted by them. Students on our app will create a profile containing their major, contact information, work experience, academic interests, hobbies, and classes they’re currently in. Our app will create tags using specific keywords in order to best match the user interests. In addition, CampusHub will enable students to form groups and meet other like-minded students. For example, it can sometimes be very difficult to form an effective study-group or find someone to collaborate on a project with at a large university. CampusHub will solve this problem by implementing a group-formation feature, which will automatically pair students with similar objectives (e.g. forming a study group for a specific class) with each other. The app allows students to interact with and form lasting bonds with other students that they might otherwise have never met.

How I built it

The app was wireframed in Marvel and then prototyped in Figma. The actual app is being created using JavaScript, specifically React Native. The backend is being developed in Python. We are using Sci-kit learn to develop the recommendation system. In order to match students with the best opportunities, we’re using TF-IDF. This algorithm is being used to perform feature extraction on both the various opportunities listed in our database and user profiles. We then use these features to generate a match score and the opportunities or other users with the highest match score are displayed to the user.

Challenges I ran into

Being new to React Native, we had to learn everything fairly quickly in a short amount of time. Inevitably, we’ve run into many bugs while coding the app, many of which do not have an obvious fix. Unfortunately, we were unable to get the React Native app to work. The app crashes within seconds of loading and for this reason, we were not able to test it out. We’re currently reviewing the entire codebase in an attempt to figure out what may be causing this.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

We’re glad that we were able to test out the prototype on an actual mobile phone. We also have found it extremely valuable to communicate with students at various universities. These students are our target users and we have conducted interviews with hundreds of students to determine what students dislike and enjoy about current messaging apps and what kind of an app or platform they would utilize given that the semester will be online. While the app is still under development, we plan to continue to acquire feedback from students so that our app fits their needs as much as possible.

We are proud that we are creating an app that students use and need in the time of COVID-19, and we hope this app will make up for some of the many connections that have been lost due to the abrupt transition from college dorms to our hometown and in-person to online classes. We believe CampusHub will allow students to connect with each other online and forge friendships with like-minded peers which is very important given the fact that in-person interactions are very limited for the foreseeable future.

What's next for CampusHub

We hope to implement an event finder feature where students can find online or virtual events such as speakers and networking events to join. We would use artificial intelligence to categorize events and make it efficient for students to find events they would be interested in based on past participation history and a keyword search.

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