Inspiration

By taking the time to get to know each other’s interests a bit, we all realized that we have an interest in storytelling, albeit in different ways. We decided that the story we wanted to tell should be story that’s been struggling to gain traction: mental health in refugee camps. There are unprecedented amounts of displaced persons all over the world, and we wanted to create a way to make addressing mental health issues in child refugees easier. Many of the children living in these camps know no other life beyond violence, displacement, and trauma. In addition, many of the children do not understand or know how to navigate the various mental health issues that have come with their unfortunate circumstances. Through our game, we hope to make the preliminary intake process for therapy easier, less intrusive, more engaging for children, and more personalized. By taking the data from the python code, therapists in camps will be able to deal with issues the children are facing in a more streamlined and efficient way. The hope for our code is for it to transcend a simple python script and become a fully fleshes open world game that tackles mental health issues.

What it does

The code is a story for 6-12 year old refugees that poses as an interactive game, but is really a questionnaire to gauge their feelings and mental health from within the camps.

How we built it

We split up the work using multiple python files made by different team members. The files hold the functions for the different interactions the main character will face. All the functions are then imported into a final python script that runs through the functions based on the order the player chooses.

Challenges we ran into

During our development of this game we ran into many challenges with both our code as well as the actual creation of the story and the elements within the story. Because we wanted this game to be targeted towards children, we had to make sure to ask each of the questions in a way that wouldn’t be harmful to their feelings while still getting useful information about their emotions. Additionally, the storyboarding was also a point of difficulty because we were unsure how far to go in the story and what elements we felt needed to be included in the beta version of this program. In the end we decided to focus on the feelings of the user within the setting of a Syrian refugee camp because it felt more concentrated. In terms of our code, we ran into a plethora of problems throughout the entirety of the process. Because three of us knew how to code in python we decided to try to split up the work so that we could potentially finish things a little bit faster. However, what we didn’t account for was that each of us had very different coding styles in terms of spacing and the way we stored certain elements. This posed a huge problem when we tried to culminate all of our code together because we ran into a lot of import errors, syntax errors, and just general mistakes in the code. It took us hours of troubleshooting to be able to fix all of the errors in the program and to make sure that it ran through everything that we wanted it to go through. It really tested our teamwork skills but luckily we were all able to come together and finish it in a manner that satisfied all of our expectations.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Athenahacks was the first Hackathon for all four of our team members. Only three out of the four of us have any coding experience, but the total coding experience amounted to knowing about one-quarter of python. Nonetheless, we brainstormed what our common interests were, and tried to come up with a project that we could see being useful beyond our limited python abilities. It was really encouraging to not look at our project as all of the things we can’t do, but to look at it as all of the things we can do once we acquire those skills. The accomplishment we are most proud of is the actual concept of our project; we believe that Eilaj could have real-world impact and truly improve the neglected mental health resources available in refugee camps.

What we learned

We have learned several things from this hackathon experience. When we were trying to determine the topic for our team, we realized the importance of the mental health issues of refugee kids by sharing our own passions. Technology, whether it is a big innovation or a small piece of program, has the ability to improve the lives of others monumentally. We wanted to focus more on the potential impact our product could have, regardless of what our current skill levels. We had to gain a newfound confidence within ourselves in order to truly believe in the project and the impact that it could make. Through our teamwork, we realized that the combined efforts and knowledge of a team are what makes successful programs possible because individually, we don’t have the ability to finish the program. Another skill that we all learned through this experience was how to efficiently and effectively combine all of our different codes together. As noted in our challenges segment, because we wrote code on separate servers and tried to combine them later, we ran into a lot of errors. Through the troubleshooting process we all learned the importance of communication when working on group projects such as this. After we all started working collectively we were able to fix our mistakes and even improve our programs beyond what we could have done on our own. Although this has been an arduous journey, all of us have definitely grown as individuals as well as together as a team.

What's next for Eilaj

We want to fine tune the program in a different programming language to help create a more immersive universe for the user (probably using Unity). At the moment the program plays at the most basic level of our concept but in the future we will take the idea one step further by actually making full character and setting designs. Additionally, at the moment the program only runs in English, because we were limited by our own language barriers; however, we want to expand the languages that it will run in so that it can be more useful for a larger variety of refugees. Furthermore, the story at the moment is limited to the first round so we would also expand the storyline to other locations as well as include tasks that the user can complete while still asking important questions that could be utilized by their therapists.

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