Inspiration

Of the many anxieties faced by new college students, finding a new community of friends may be one of the most intimidating. Many times, people advise to join clubs and student organizations, however, new students may be too hesitant or shy. The thought of meeting many existing club members at a single in-person event can be terrifying.

After almost 5 hours of brainstorming, we came up with a perfect idea to help these students connect to their new college community.

We built a web-based application called Fresh Connect which aims to lower the intimidating barrier of joining a new student organization. By logging messages to the school servers, adminstrators have the ability to moderate cyber harassment. These safe space chat rooms will help remove fears from new students and promote finding their new community of like-minded students.

What it does

The app works by getting some basic information about you when you sign up, your school email address. It then uses that to create a new profile for you, which will be used to find communities and clubs on campus which are of interest to you. On the first run, the app provides a list of clubs/communities which you can join or learn more about. When you join a club, you can introduce yourself to the community via an integrated messaging application. The messages in the chat are always logged on the school servers, where the school administrators have access to. The main reason for logging this information is to prevent cyberbullies from joining these communities hence making online meetups safer and free of trolls.

How we built it

The app is built using Node.js as a backend server, Express.js for the frontend & middleware and the integrated messaging app is built using Socket.io. The application is hosted on AWS. It can be easily deployed on a server that supports Node.js by cloning the git repository and running npm install && npm start The message logger is written entirely in JavaScript and is always listening for new messages on the thread.

Challenges we ran into

Making this was super challenging but also really fun. 75% of the team are really new to programming and have been coding for only an average of four months. Lack of technical experience was a huge obstacle for the team but we were able to finish the project because of our determination to learn something new, and our goal to make the world a better and safer place for everyone.

On the technical end,

  • We had issues getting Socket.io to connect properly to the node server for the messenger
  • This is the team's first application to be hosted on AWS.
  • Not everyone on the team (75%) has a solid background in programming
  • 30 hours was too short for the fun we planned to have on our project

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are most proud of how much we all have learned by building this project. About 30 hours ago, some of the teammates had never used node.js before or written a single jade file, but we were able to pick up the right skills this quickly.

  • Making an application that connects the world better and hence makes the world a better place
  • Setting up socket.io to work with the backend Node.js server
  • Making the server work after spending 3 hours debugging
  • Finishing our project on time

What we learned

We learned how to work as a team, how to encourage each other and how to stay connected

  • How to deploy an application to AWS
  • How rendering engines work
  • How to not suck at hackathons

What's next for Fresh Connect

  • Right now, Fresh Connect still has a few bugs which we will fix in the next few days and make it even better.
  • We plan to get it working on production servers and deploy it on school campuses.
  • We plan to use more advanced methods for filtering out trolls and detecting cyberbullying
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