It began with this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGkKVpUQbEU&t=4s We had previously been aware of the fact that suicide is a problem amongst the veteran population. However, this video allowed us to have some insight as to why. After scouring government reports we were left with the following information.
- Younger veterans present a higher suicide risk
- Veterans do not feel non-veterans can understand their issues
- Anonimity can be a concern when discussing suicide
- Veterans would like other veterans to talk to about their issues
- Veterans would like any people that help them to be fairly compensated
We set out to create a platform that had this information at the core of the design process.
What it does
We made a website which shows locations of real-life meetups for veterans around the world. We also have an interface through which other meetups can be added. The website has a chat app which connects helper veterans to suicidal veterans. The exchanges are currently being stored in our database without any identifiers - ensuring user anonymity.
How we built it
Python and IBM Watson were used to create a sentiment analysis engine which works as a stand-alone module but is not in production. We created a smart contract in solidity to automate payments to helpers as well as create a transparent payment structure, ensuring that any and all money from donations is accounted for and the largest possible portion of it goes to compensating the people that help us save lives. However, we have not yet managed to make this run consistently run in an economically viable manner. Therefore, we have not put this into production.
Challenges we ran into
Initially, the scope of the project was too large which led to diluted efforts and not as much code in production as we would have liked. None of us had worked with any of the APIs previously. None of us had previously worked with solidity.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're happy to have learned a lot throughout the experience of the hackathon: highlights of this experience with firebase and solidity.
What we learned
We learned to the importance of establishing scope early and not deviating from that decision. We also think the experience is solid evidence that sleep is a necessity.
What's next for Veterans For Life
The ML and blockchain aspects of our project need to be integrated. Once this is done we will retrospectively compensate all helpers and clear the messaging history from our servers. We are also planning to reach out to various charities in order to get their feedback on our MVP to ensure it is fit for purpose and allow them to influence the direction of development. Currently we can only accept Canadian veterans as do not have the mechanisms to authenticate veterans from other countries. We would like to change this in the future.