What do you do with unwanted items? Do you throw it away, recycle it, repair it, or donate it?

Goodwill is a well-known brand for accepting donations of household goods and then re-selling those goods to those in the community in need. One of the most common questions we experience is what to do with an unwanted item -- can it be donated? We created a helpful mobile application to answer this question and help spread the word of other services offered by Goodwill. The environment will benefit as well by putting things in their proper place.

People shouldn’t be unwanted either -- Goodwill through their brand recognition of donating items can use a new captive audience to help their community learn of new ways they can further themselves with career training and job coaching.

What it does

The workflow of the application is:

  1. Take a picture of an item.
  2. Identify what the item is through computer vision.
  3. Use a demand heuristic to determine whether or not the item can be donated and financial incentive associated with tax-deductible donations.
  4. Present user with options for the item and other Goodwill services of value such as job coaching and skill development.

How we built it

The mobile application is built with Flutter. The backend is built with the Node.js Serverless Framework. The serverless tool creates an API Gateway and Lambda Functions. The first function calls AWS Rekognition, which determines labels for the image. The next function uses those labels and the Goodwill’s Donation Guide to determite if the item will be accepted.

Challenges we ran into

The vision for our project and what was feasible ran into the obvious constraint of time. There were a number of services and concepts that would have made for a more polished solution that were out of reach for one day.

We deliberately chose to use services we weren’t deeply familiar with. A hackathon is a good opportunity to experiment in this way. We developed our first Flutter Mobile App, our first use of the Rekognition Image Processing API, and first use of the Serverless Framework being used to deploy to AWS.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We identified a real problem we’ve experienced in our interactions with Goodwill and saw it as a way to drive a technical solution that others in the community would relate to. Further, by understanding the objectives of Goodwill, provide another avenue for engagement with their community that does not require them to physically visit a drop-off location.

What we learned

We learned a number of new technologies and services:

  • Node.js Serverless
  • AWS Lambda
  • AWS Rekognition
  • Flutter

What's next for Unwanted?

The complete vision for the project was to meet the needs of multiple audiences that we could not fully achieve.

  1. User creation within Goodwill’s database when creating an account with the App (Not Done)
  2. Take a photo to identify what the object is. (Done)
  3. Take the object and determine whether or not it would be accepted by Goodwill. (Done)
  4. Provide user with options: (MVP done)
    • Donate: Given an item that can be donated, we present the user with knowledge of their local Goodwill location with HERE Location Services and additional career / training opportunities offered by their local location. (Done)
    • Repair: Some items can be repaired so we direct users to technical training that can help them repair their own item and learn skills that can help them in their careers. (Not Done)
    • Upcycled: Items that cannot be donated but can be used for maker projects. By partnering with local makerspaces and libraries, the user can be directed to technical training resources on how to use their item in projects. For example, turning a broken blender or torn clothing into other items while learning electronics, repair, and sewing on practical projects with items they already have. (Not Done)
    • Recycle: Items that cannot be donated but can be recycled. We would suggest working with local recycling and e-waste companies to build up a comprehensive database of what to do with unwanted items. (Not done)
    • Trash: Items that cannot be donated can be sent directly to the trash. Rather than taking resources away from Goodwill sorting through unsellable items we can conserve effort. Further, the user can also be made aware of training / career opportunities they may be interested. (Not Done)

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