Though national politics is widely publicized, keeping up with changes in local and state politics is often difficult: less than half of Americans know their representatives. However, these representatives have tremendous influence in our lives, and with an election year on the horizon, it is particularly important at the moment to stay politically aware. With that issue in mind, we wanted to create an app that keeps track of all of our representatives in one place. Furthermore, we noticed that children had limited access points to understanding their government, so our app is also partially directed toward educating elementary and middle school students on the roles of their representatives.

What it does

This app consists of two sections: one for adults and one for children. The adult portion is aimed towards people with a fundamental understanding of what the different levels of government do; based on the address you enter, it lists all of your representatives, as well as their position, political affiliation, contact information, recent actions, and other relevant information. The children section is similar, but rather than linking to news articles, it explains what each level of government does.

How we built it

Part of our team worked on the back end, which consisted of using Google’s Civic Information API to extract relevant information from all of the representatives associated with an address. From there, we used the News API to find articles that involved these representatives. The other part of our team worked on the front end. Using Codename One, we developed an intuitive interface that allows users to easily navigate between one representative to the next and read the representatives’ articles/websites in a browser window. For the kid version, we wrote simple descriptions about representatives' roles.

Challenges we ran into

We experienced some difficulties in integrating the back end with the front end, but our main challenges were related to designing a clean, user-friendly interface, especially if we want to keep children interested in learning about the government.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

In the making of this app, our team encountered a number of challenges, but we were able to communicate clearly, particularly while integrating the front end and back end, which enabled us to work in a relatively stress-free environment and in a timely manner. We're proud of

What we learned

During this project, our back end coders learned a lot about API use because the News API and Google Civic Information API that we used had some key differences in usage. Our front end coders gained familiarity with the Codename One platform through the extensive work we did with changing various elements of the user interface (e.g. different themes for the adult and children sections) and adding images.

What's next for Find Your Reps

Going forwards, we want to expand the capabilities of our app, particularly the children’s section. We want to enhance the experience of our younger users, possibly by including games and fun fact quizzes to enforce their knowledge. For the adult section, we think it might be interesting to develop a page that describes the stances of each representative on hot-button issues. We also want to continue improving the front end experience.

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