Collaboration and communication is one of the key factors to academic success. While there are existing platforms that allow some simple communication within classes each year, and websites to ask general questions, there was lack of a platform to connect users over their particular courses between years. Students had few incentives to use existing systems to contribute to the social learning environment within their classes, and no single resource existed that allowed students to learn from past year's class participants.
What it does
Mindmash is a secure web solution to this problem that allows students to create and join class groups that exist perpetually. Within these groups students can post questions, view solutions, and create responses to questions. A meticulously calibrated economic model regulates the benefit students receive from viewing responses to questions they are interested and the cost in time to someone else answering a question. The core principle is that across the platform in all of their courses, individuals can contribute and take in different proportions, but that these forces balance out. Beyond allowing typical communicative abilities as are common across the internet, Mindmash deploys a sophisticated editing platform that allows everything from embedding images to illustrate questions or responses, to a powerful LATEX mathematic equation editor, to markdown text formatting. All of these factors come together to render a clean and clear segment of information. An Android application with a special hook into our posting system allows users to simply snap a photo, and have it instantly inserted in their open editing interface, a sophisticated security implementation managing the secure transmission. This feature allows users to easily get the content they want into the Mindmesh platform.
Mindmash has the benefit of opening up the solitary paradigm of homework and studying to be a social communal activity in which the best everyone has to offer seeds the development and growth of their peers. Through this environment the learning capaity for all members is augmented allowing them to reach further in their quest for academic development and scholastic success.
How we built it
The platform is based upon a fusion of a standard PHP mySQL backend with a JQuery AJAX driven front end, and a custom NODE.JS platform driving all data in real time updates to all users active on the site, and allowing for the live photo transport through Socket. We also deployed a unique passwordless login system that uses authentication links similar to those created to register a new account and confirm an email address to authenticate our users easily on both our mobile and web platforms. In shifting the burden of security to the larger email service providers Mindmash is a driving force in the development of a more secure online environment.
Challenges we ran into
Our team pushed their capacity on the quantity and diversity of features implemented, while balancing them with the quality of production ready coding practices. This system is capable of supporting real users, now. Setting up a custom NODE.JS backend to manage database calls and live tracking of viewing users to allow a feed
What we learned
All of our team members were proud of their development in the area of realtime web applications, taking the step from generating static server side pages to maintaining the accuracy of their data with real time push infrastructure was a huge step.
Things we are proud of
Our team was largely proud to have set ambitious feature goals and have achieved them. We are happy to be providing a useable service that will hopefully be adopted by our peers.
What's next for Mindmash (mindmash.io)
Our ambitions for Mindmash are to have every university student using Mindmash to collaborate with their peers in their courses. Will will also spend some time testing users interactions with our system to better develop it to fulfill their needs.