“Why don’t they just learn english?”, is a question that many people ask when it comes to immigration issues. The answer: it’s harder than you think. More and more immigrants take tremendous efforts in learning English and adjusting to a new life and a new home in the U.S. because doing so allows them to have a better career and a stable life. However, immigrants are faced with multiple societal and economic barriers that prevent them from doing so: one being ethnic enclaves like Chinatown.
Although ethnic enclaves facilitate coping with a new environment and make it easier to continue speaking a native language when suddenly put into a foreign environment, it can prevent immigrants from fully integrating into American society and further limit their economic opportunities. Not to mention, there is a lack of resources and information to help introduce immigrants to the huge world outside their neighborhoods.
What it does
Our app is a solution to this huge dilemma. Utilizing an AI chat bot, it motivates immigrants to interact with the diverse communities outside their ethnic enclaves through several agendas. First, the app helps them to adjust to life in the U.S by presenting tailored information on employment, education, and learning english. Most importantly, the app encourages users to connect with people they identify with through finding local culture clubs and supporting communities.
Unfortunately, we did not have the skill set to fully implement Google search APIs into our bot, but these are the features we were able to implement into our project: •FindConnections - Find cultural communities or events in a certain location for a certain country. •FindLicenses - Find licenses for specific jobs or for general licenses such as for driving. •GetEducation - Helps the user with general problems with education such as going back to college, scholarships, or learning English. •GetJob - Helps the user with employment problems for a certain region, such as finding a job or joining work unions.
How we built it
Back-end: The AI chat bot was built using API.AI. Creating the intents and entities was done through gathering online research about the common social problems that immigrants face in the U.S. The AI chat bot was then integrated into X-code utilizing the terminal. The IOS app interface was built using X-code.
Front-end: Icons, logos, and background were designed in Illustrator and Photoshop, then exported into X-code.
Challenges we ran into
A huge problem was our lack of knowledge on building an AI and chat bot. Our initial plan was to incorporate external APIs for two important functions: a search engine API for in-depth chat bot conversation, a map API to connect individuals to local culture centers, and a language translator API to accommodate the user's possible limited English capacity. However, all chat bot API's we tried either didn't support external API use or had little to no documentation.
There were lots of technical problems with X-code where we had to build everything from scratch again not one time but two times. In addition, we didn't know which AI API to use and ended up switching through 4 different APIs (spending more than 2 hours on each) before using API.ai once again due to technical problems.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Considering this was our first hackathon for all of us, we feel extremely proud (and also extremely tired) that we were able to finish and execute our project...even though it didn't meet our initial expectations. At least, it worked though!
What we learned
How to not give up. Throughout the whole night, our brains were mush. Yet, despite that, we pushed ourselves beyond our limits and supported each other to the end. Knowledge-wise, we all learned how to utilize different interfaces and APIs that were completely new to us.
What's next for Outclave
if team receives $$$: make app perfect, make app bootiful else: sleep