Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, many high school students - including our fellow peers and classmates - have essentially lost 2 years of their high school lives. They have had no opportunity to make real connections, network with other people, or have fun with their friends outside of online environments. Our freshmen peers have had no real connection to high school, only being able to connect with their middle school friends given that their first year was completely online. The situation puts many students in a predicament, as they’ll be expected to still have the knowledge and experience that is typical of students of their grade. We believe that we can utilize technology to help bridge the shared experiences of students to connect them with their classmates and peers.
What it does
At its core, myFriend is an application that aims to bridge the divide that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused. The app aims to understand the interests of individual students and then connect students with others of similar interests to build friendships. It automatically generates group chats for each club, course, and organization. myFriend’s algorithm will recommend these groups to students based on their selected interests. From there, the students may find other individuals who they can also connect with via direct messages. Additionally, schools have the option of providing interactive tours through the myFriend Experience. The platform will feature support for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality tours alongside the traditional video tours, to truly elevate the interactivity that we are able to bring to the table.
Project myFriend will allow for students to return to in-person learning with a more innate knowledge of their school and fellow classmates. It will help bridge connections that were severely missed over the previous year, and provide clubs and organizations an opportunity to grow interest amongst underclassmen and other students. Through this application, we are able to form connections and experiences to reignite the passion for learning.
How we built it
The app layout and graphical user interface (GUI) was prototyped using Figma. This allowed us to see what the app would look like on common devices from the two major platforms (iPhone 11/iPhone 8 on iOS, and Pixel 2/Nexus on Android). We then incorporated this design into a functional conceptual model using React Native, which allowed us to accurately evaluate the end-user experience. We used a Firebase Database Authentication to power the login and signup pages. Additionally, we created an interactive AR demo for the myFriend Experience using the echoAR platform. Through the built-in console we could import 3D CAD models created using OnShape and automatically test them in real time using Apple’s ARKit framework.
Challenges we ran into
The main challenge we came across was trying to integrate the functions of our app properly. The goal was to focus on delivering the best user experience possible, and to understand the features that would best benefit students who would use the platform. We were able to overcome the challenge by building a development flowchart that would allow us to understand these interactions and create a user-friendly application, both in terms of the interface and functionality. We utilized resources across multiple platforms, including Figma, React Native, and echoAR, to deliver this experience.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We were able to gain a deeper insight and understanding into the challenges that our peers and fellow classmates have faced throughout the pandemic. The time over the past two years has flown by so quickly, and we haven’t had the opportunity to really take into consideration how much distance learning has affected people until now. We’re proud to be able to use modern platforms and technologies to create applications and platforms to meet the challenges of the modern day.
What we learned
The main concept that we learned was how to properly understand real world challenges and create solutions to solve them. The topic provided focused on a very specific but broad challenge, and our goal for this hackathon was to understand the fundamental obstacles and setbacks that students across the country were being faced with.
What's next for myFriend
The next logical step for myFriend will be integrating into the real world, and contacting local high schools to understand how they would integrate this application into their return to in-person learning. Additionally, we want to talk to more students to truly understand the challenges they have faced, which will allow us to optimize the app’s functionality and expand on features that would most benefit them. We also wish to expand to support universities in the future, as many college students have faced similar setbacks caused by distance learning.