Due to our forced separation by COVID-19, our team has been searching for a way to go past this barrier and connect with people around the world. One of the biggest dangers of COVID-19 has been the spread of false information and experiences. We wanted to be able to implement a way for users to discuss with people who have directly experienced the effects of the outbreak in their respective locations. The goal is to create an immersive experience which emphasizes the formation of relationships between users. As we pondered over the different ways we could accomplish our goal we stumbled upon the Small World Experiment. The Small World Experiment is based upon the concept that each person can be connected to anyone around the world through six-degrees of separation.

What it does

Our application is a website that allows users to connect to those around them through a news forum board. This board contains updates from the members of the community about their situations. Additionally, the user will be given the option to connect to a random community around the world. This will embark them on a journey through five communities to reach the sixth and final community. Within each community the user visits, they will be able to interact, through forums, with members of the community.

A community is defined as a high density cluster of users. Upon sign-up, the user will be assigned a community based upon their location.

How we built it

We implemented React.js along with HTML5 to develop the front-end of the website and Node.js was used for the back-end. We created our database schema using Firebase's Real-Time Database and used their Rest API to pull and push data. We used Firebase's authentication to handle user management. We developed and integrated an algorithm to detect clusters from user locations to create communities. Users were then assigned a community and attached to its respective forum.

When a user desires to interact with a new community, triggered by a button, they are connected to a route plan created by another algorithm. We developed this algorithm to allow the user to interact with a variety of communities on their journey to the final forum.

Challenges we ran into

As we were using JavaScript, we ran into problems with certain asynchronous functions and promises. Often, a task would not be completed and a dependent task would be started which would fire an error. Additionally, we encountered many challenges during the development of the main algorithm that creates communities. An initial problem was that the algorithm would create overlapping communities. We addressed this problem through research on cluster detection. We also read through large amounts of documentation to address many minor problems.

Accomplishments that we are proud of

We were able to develop a fully functioning website despite our team members being separated by great distances and time-zones. We were able to get over this hurdle by defining clear roles and responsibility that each member would tackle.

What we learned

We learned more about the Firebase Rest API documentation and its implementation. Furthermore, we were able explore cluster algorithms more in depth than we have before. Throughout the hackathon, we cultivated a greater professional knowledge on how to distribute and manage tasks within the team.

What's next for LITS (Lost In The Separation)

We will be refining the user interface to allow a smoother flow of information. Additionally, we will be implementing a method for users to be able to, seemlessly, connect to other users holding similar interests and interact with thier community. We hope that this will inspire a platform for users to take the initiative to seek out new connections and establish a knowledge of current events through the perspective of those expereincing it first-hand.

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