The recent crisis has taken a huge toll on the education of the young minds of America. All US schools have been forced to perform distance-learning, and this has caused two main issues to arise: lack of personal connection between students and teachers, as well as increased stress on students. Many teachers are only accessible by email, and therefore this lack of personal connection makes remote-distance learning no different from an online course that can be found on Youtube or Udemy. The need for social connection between classmates and teachers is essential for a student’s learning and current remote environments do not accommodate for this. Moreover, many students’ families are in financial turmoil and therefore students are under pressure to not only maintain high grades in school but also to help with putting food on the table, decreasing the amount of time they have for schoolwork and increasing their stress.

Nowadays, chat rooms are widely used in friend groups because they help virtually bridge the distance between the homes of friend groups and we believe a chatroom can have the same effect on a classroom as well.

What it does

Because of this, we created Classroom Connections, an anonymous classroom mobile chat app with unique features that promote open communication between teachers and classmates, improving the learning experience and altogether reducing stress for students. The chatroom is completely anonymous to students to prevent any aspect of social toxicity and competition. Students can express their emotions and questions to the class without any worry of peer pressure, promoting a safe environment where people aren’t afraid to ask for help. Specifically catering towards an educational environment, our app also introduces students to an extremely user friendly question & answer system where questions can be answered efficiently with correct answers being marked by the teacher. Another built in feature is the conflict calendar where students can input days which they believe they have the most work and teachers can see the percentages of which days the class does not prefer to have work to be due. This will establish a subtle form of communication between teachers and students and ultimately allow teachers to demonstrate their genuine care about their students’ stress levels and mental wellbeing. All of these features can bring together remote classes in a welcoming way much needed in the situation of our society today.

How I built it

We built Classroom Connections in the Xcode engine with the language swift. Much of our app is built off of creating a Table View, and customized cell with proper constraints to display a appropriate ordering of listing. A large part of our project was created with the Firebase API, which acts as a remote server where we stored our real time data. The authentication, the virtual classroom, and the conflict calendar all used the realtime database in Firebase as a method of storing, retrieving, and writing data. We also incorported third-party libraries with Cocoapods using Ruby.

Challenges I ran into

Some major challenges we faced were working with the user interface of our app, especially constraining the pieces of the UI such that it displays in an appropriate manner on iPhones with different sized screens.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

We are extremely proud of the three main features in our app: Our Q&A system, the anonymous nature of our chat, and the conflict calendar. These were extremely complicated to implement with real time updating and took more than 2000 lines of code. Despite the technical complexity, each feature was also driven by research through multiple online social sources to address the most optimal learning environments. Tying these all together, we created a project with ideas backed up by credible sources to create something that will undoubtedly leave an impact on our current society if used properly.

What I learned

We grew a lot at this hackathon, as individuals and as a team. As individuals, we massively improved our proficiency with Swift,CoreML, and Firebase. As a team, we learned how to efficiently collaborate with each other and be open to each other's ideas. Moreover, we took a lot of time this hackathon to adequately plan out our idea before we executed on it, making the coding process a lot smoother.

What's next for Classroom Connections

Our first priority is making our app accessible to as many people as possible. Our first step is to upload our app to the app store to make our product publicly accessible to all iPhone users. The next step is going to be expansion onto the Android platform, as we are aware that a majority of smartphone users are on Android and therefore do not have access to our app. We plan to potentially launch a nonprofit reaching out to districts and asking if teachers would like to try out our app. We want to also create a website for our application which we will link to firebase in order to track our user base consistently and take input from teachers for any potential improvements we can make to the current app. This website will also act as an informational platform that can provide an official face for our app. We then ultimately hope to expand internationally, possibly using this project to aid distance learning in different countries around the world. We would do this by pushing our app to foreign app stores and adopting advertisement programs in foreign countries.

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