Inspiration

It all started last year at our first virtual hackathon. We realized that the already difficult task of finding hackathon partners was even more taxing during the covid pandemic. This realization, along with our experience using dating apps to connect with people virtually during the pandemic, led us to start thinking about LinkUp.

What it does

Whether you’re looking for a project to work on or teammates to carry out your dream vision, LinkUp is for you. Our platform matches developers based on their unique skill set, goals, and background, removing lots of headache and stress for our users during project search. LinkUp allows users to create a profile and select their image, college, attending hackathon, commitment level, skills, and whether they’re searching for or have an idea. After creating their profile, users are added to a dating app-inspired the card stack where they can begin their partner search. Our custom profile cards clearly display everyone’s individual assets, and gamifies the often tedious task of finding a partner with a fun and intuitive swiping UI. And to make it even better, we added filtering features so that users only see individuals with their desired skill set and background. Once two people match, the messaging service is unlocked and they can reach out and begin connecting! LinkUp makes finding new project matches easier than ever before!

Key Features

  • Partner matching based on user profile
  • Advanced filtering capabilities on user traits
  • In-app messaging service to connect matched users
  • All-in-one platform for project collaboration

How we built it

We created our app for iOS devices, using Swift and XCode to develop the product. After comparing the SwiftUI and UIKit libraries, we decided to proceed with the UIKit framework because of its better documentation, especially for integrating Google Firebase services. We utilized Firebase for our authentication, storage, and messaging platform because it had the most documentation on iOS integration and fulfilled all our service requirements. We kickstarted our project with a boilerplate firebase, ios integrated github repo by Yash Shelatkar, and integrated all of our unique features throughout the hackathon. Finally, we used Github to collaborate and track project changes.

Challenges we ran into

This was our first time working with Swift UIKit and creating a full stack IOS App on Xcode. We initially struggled to learn the Swift and UIKit syntax, and spent a long time working on integrating Firebase services into our app. But after a long Friday night of coding, we were able to set up user authentication, and persist user credentials until the user signed out. The next big hurdle was creating a user friendly UI inspired by the Tinder dating app, complete with a card stack, swiping, and in-app messaging. We also struggled with navigating between views and calling methods across different files, but were able to finally implement all those features with lots of Google searches and Stack Overflow!

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Neither of us came into this hackathon with a lot of iOS programming experience, so we are very proud of how much we learned about Swift and XCode. We are also really happy with our app progress; we were able to develop all the core features of LinkUp’s minimum viable product. Finally, we are proud of the app’s potential. In talking to friends and roommates, we believe LinkUp is unlike anything currently out in the industry, and there’s a high demand for a better social networking platform, especially during virtual times.

What we learned

Our knowledge of Xcode, Swift UIKit, and IOS development increased exponentially this weekend, and in just one weekend we were able to bring our app’s vision to life. And to complement our technical growth, we learned a lot about scaling and expanding a product beyond the MVP, and we brainstormed lots of exciting new features for future development. We also learned a lot about user centric design, and focused on developing a fun, easy, and exciting to use app that maximized social impact and connectivity.

What's next for LinkUp

Finding project partners for hackathons was LinkUp’s initial inspiration, but we see a great potential in including all types of creators on our platform. The timeline for LinkUp’s expansion is as follows:

  1. Partner matching for hackathons: Create a user friendly platform to eliminate hundreds of Slack introductory messages, and create a fun and gamified matching process.
  2. Partner matching for all developers: Expand our app’s features to allow programmers to easily find partners for side projects, startup ideas, … you name it!
  3. Partner matching for all students: Diversify our user profiles and filters to allow all students to benefit from LinkUp. Through interviews with our friends in mechanical engineering and graphic design, we’ve found that students in other majors also struggle to find project partners.
  4. Partner matching for all creators: Open and market LinkUp to non-college students. This will enable everyone to form connections and unlock the power of their collaborations.

Ethical Considerations- McCoy Institute

Availability Privacy Inclusivity

When developing LinkUp, we carefully considered the ethical ramifications of the app in the ethical fields of availability, inclusivity, and privacy.

Firstly, we considered availability. We wanted the app to be available to all people, regardless of access barriers like price. This led us to making LinkedUp free and available to everyone. This availability promotes diversity and inclusivity by opening the user base up to the largest possible audience. We further practiced inclusivity by ensuring our app is inclusive to all groups. People on the app are identified by their chosen names and a custom picture. Thus, people are able to freely express themselves. Finally, we highly considered privacy when developing LinkUp. This helped lead us to make the user profile with little identifiable information. We also thought carefully about security when choosing our database and authentication methods to further promote privacy.

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