Going into our first Hackathon, our team had little experience, but a tonne of passion for coding, and was full of energy and excitement to learn from the event. After reading through the topics available, our team just knew we had to address the problem of cyberbullying. Every single one of us has faced some sort of cyberbullying at one point or another in our lives - the issue may not seem as serious as in-person bullying, but the reality is words can be even more harsh and hurtful online. Living in the digital age, especially throughout this pandemic, where we have all been isolated on our own, it is particularly important to focus on mental health, checking up on each other and doing everything we can to make the online community a better and happier place.
What does it do?
Help Them Kids does exactly as the name says: help the kids. Our product protects the younger generation from harmful content on the internet, using a scientific algorithm to flag and suggest changes to words identified as obscene, or being used in hurtful circumstances. The title of our project, Help Them Kids, is a play on words off of a famous quote from basketball legend Michael Jordan, symbolizing and literally demonstrating the way the program flags and improves text containing harmful language. Aside from our signature feature, our website also contains information helpful to children, whether they have questions regarding their physical or mental health, or are looking to expand their passions and interests.
How did we make it?
The functions behind Help Them Kids were programmed using Python 3.8. However, with members coming with varying skill sets, we were able to take advantage of each member’s strengths by learning to use Django to combine HTML with Python in order to create a multi-purpose website. For the algorithm used in particular, our program searched for exact matches in a dictionary database for each word entered by the user, and also considers the number of negation terms directly in front of any keywords flagged as potential offensive (an even number of negation terms would cancel out, ex: “not not stupid” is the same as “stupid”). Our program also removed neutral filler words before searching for pronouns before or after any suspected word violations to determine the legitimacy of the flag. If no exact matches for a word are found, the program then searches based on the proportion of matches of consonant letters, allowing the system to bypass most attempts of exploiting loopholes to use insults.
However, the process wasn’t easy. Without conveying the true emotion behind each message, it can be difficult even for humans to detect the intent of a text. This is even more difficult for a program, built entirely on logic. As a team, we worked to overcome these challenges, developing an algorithm based on multiple studies, and brainstorming together to come up with and conquer any possible loopholes.
Teamwork was the main focus throughout this process; coming from very different programming backgrounds, we had to adapt and learn different techniques and platforms to integrate each of our individual skills into a final collaborative product. Specifically, we had to learn to set up and operate Django in order to merge the HTML and Python aspects of our project. Once we had the foundation laid out, it was the trust we had in each other that allowed us to be so successful with our product. We each worked primarily with our strengths, while also remaining on call to help each other with any difficulties we were having. In the end, we were able to create a well-thought out and fully functioning project to work towards a cause that we all care deeply about, while being able to safely have a tonne of fun throughout the pandemic, all in our very first hackathon.
What did we learn?
One of the biggest lessons we learned from this Hackathon was not related to coding, in that we learned just how fun it is to participate in such a large and exciting event. We have also learned a lot about each other, and how we work best as a team to maximize efficiency and happiness throughout the team regarding our product. Overall, it is these soft skills that we have picked up from this event that we can apply anywhere in life, whenever any of us have to work in teams.
The future of Help Them Kids
We hope to be able to grow from this experience, as well as the product that we have produced, in the future. We believe the concept we targeted throughout this challenge has the potential to become a very useful tool, and the problem it addresses is undeniably prevalent in society. Just like the kids themselves, the future for Help Them Kids is very bright, and we will continue to pursue growth in similar areas building off of this project, whether it is directly or indirectly.