Last weekend, I was able to meet with some of my neighborhood friends for the first time in over a year since the Covid-19 pandemic prevented me from seeing anyone. This reminded me of how fun it is to meet with community friends and help them with their problems.

This past year wasn’t all terrible for me though. Since the Covid-19 pandemic forced my school to use remote online learning, I was able to take a class about front-end and back-end web development at my local community college. I learned about HTML, CSS, JavaScript, XML, PHP, MySQL, and Ajax.

School just ended for me a few weeks ago, so I thought to myself, “Why not use the skills I’ve learned this past school year to help solve the problem I’ve been facing this past year”?” Thus, I created Empower to empower and connect communities.

What it does

Empower does not focus on building its own brand or fortune like other websites. This should be blatantly obvious since the name is not apparent anywhere on the webpage. It instead entirely places all of the focus on empowering local neighborhood communities by facilitating the development of meaningful relationships between members. Empower creates a platform where people can easily reach out to other members in their local neighborhood area for help with tasks. Although this seems trivial, community interaction empowers communities and individuals since it helps people develop long-lasting relationships that make them feel stronger and more unified. It also empowers the community to take action to fix the problems in their lives themselves rather than simply ignoring them.

How we built it

I built Empower with HTML, CSS, PHP, and MySQL, and a few lines of JavaScript. I used Bootstrap 4 to help style the webpage. I did not use any online template or website builder; I coded every line by hand with the skills I learned this past year.

Challenges we ran into

There were many different paths that I could have taken for this website and many different implementations that I could have made. Choosing which path to follow and what to do with my time was extremely difficult.

Design and art are not my talents, so it was difficult to make a professional and attractive website.

This is only my second hackathon. I’m used to creating applications and games where I have to account for every edge case, bug, and possible exploit to prevent the user from breaking my code. But hackathons are about hacking something together and praying to the Stack Overflow gods that it works regardless of the apparent bugs, glitches, and scrappy code. It was hard for me to process this and keep this in mind while programming.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

I am proud of how the website turned out. I think the website looks great, and although some of the code looks terrible and barely functions, everything works as intended. I’m proud that I used the skills I learned this past year to help my community.

What we learned

I learned that I shouldn’t try to fix every bug or optimize every line of code while working on a hackathon. I also learned that although listening to music while programming is nice, I can’t focus 100% while doing that.

What's next for Empower

I’m excited to continue building Empower. I want to make the website look even better and more professional. I want to patch some of the holes and actually host Empower on a website and server to help neighborhood communities reconnect, reunite, and revitalize after a long time apart.

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