In the midst of COVID-19, it is very easy to feel alone. Sometimes, you just want to see the world outside your walls. We are Cosmic Connections – the FREE virtual pen-pal service with personalized matches that are out-of-this-world. Combining the nostalgia of ‘snail mail’ with a fun, interactive user interface, getting a match is as easy as 1, 2, 3. All you have to do is fill out a short survey once a month, and we take care of finding your space-ial match and provide you with thought-provoking prompts to start the conversation. 🌌🛸

Our target audience is young adults around the age of 17 to 25 who are familiar with the concept of pen-pals. In addition to the nostalgic aspect, the Census Bureau shows that young adults (18-29) are most prone to negative mental health consequences due to self-isolation, with 42% reporting anxiety and 36% reporting depression. We hope that our application will allow users to enter a safe space where they can openly communicate with their cosmic connection and develop a friendship that will last light years!!

What it does

This web application allows users to find a cosmic connection, essentially a buddy who matches their interests. Cosmic Connection also provides conversation starters to foster new topics for anyone to open up about. Themes will be occurring on Cosmic Connection every round of matches! All users will engage with their cosmic buddy anonymously to foster a safe environment. Match reveal at the end of the month is optional and super exciting to look forward to!

After being matched with their cosmic connection, users have the opportunity to send virtual letters to their match. However, users only have the opportunity to send one letter at a time and can respond only when the user responds. This is used in order to mimic the real-life action of sending a letter to someone and in order to provide a unique feature in a culture that is heavily dependent on instant gratification.

How we built it

In creating Cosmic Connections, for design, we used Figma and Adobe software to develop a wireframe and graphic components. We chose a palette that went well with the space theme and provoked emotions of serenity, but alertness. On the technology side, our web app is made with React and Google Cloud Firestore, integrated with the TypeForm API and Cloud Function webhooks.

  • We used the TypeForm API to embed a form within our website that allows users to match with their cosmic connections based on their interests. We collected the responses from the TypeForm API and directly connected it to our Firebase backend.

  • We used Firebase authentication to validate user emails and passwords. In addition, we stored various fields in our database including connections, letters, and user information. This data is incorporated to match users with others with the same interest.

Challenges we ran into

The challenges that we ran into were configuring the Firebase and integrating external APIs. Also, working together with new friends from different time zones was super fun but also required more planning. 🕓

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are proud of our Space theme and the usage of the tools available to us! Additionally, we designed the entirety of the UI components (including the spaceship and the background galaxy) through hand-drawn sketches and graphic design. Additionally, functionality-wise we are proud of our ability to embed TypeForm API and integrate the Firebase.

What we learned

We learned more about personal connections and new technologies! This is many of our first times using these technologies but thanks to mentors and friends, we were able to ramp up our learning! Thank you to everyone who hosted and helped us!

What's next for Cosmic Connections

Some future implementations will be features such as improving our matching algorithm to consider similar interests, adding community channels, and enabling different activities between penpals. We hope to create game nights and a variety of conversation starters for easy social interactions! This web app is meant for young adults who feel isolated and would like to meet people from anywhere around the world. We will be constantly incorporating new ideas that suits our targeted audience. Stay tuned!

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