One of our teammates is a recent graduate, and she was so lost when it was time to pay off her loan. She had no idea how to deal with the budgeting of her day to day life while also keeping extra money to pay back OSAP loans. Some of the other team members are current University students who are struggling to gather funds early on so that they can pay back their loans as soon as they graduate. Whether you are just entering university or a recent graduate, paying back student loans can be a headache if not dealt with properly. Government student loans are the most common source of debt for over one-third of graduates in Canada. The average time it takes graduates to clear this debt is more than three years. Those at the bachelor level, who had co-op experience have an average of $18,600 in debt remaining three years after graduation, while those without co-op have $19,800. OSAP depends on the students to do the calculations which is unreliable. Students don't have all the information required to put together a strong repayment plan, so having this all-in-one hub could save them money in the form of interest and also help the government receive their payments on time.
What it does
One of the main functions of our app is the ability for the users to upload receipts whenever they shop and the website to be able to extract data from the receipts and automatically categorize them for budget tracking. This includes both pictures of physical receipts or a screenshot of payment confirmation online. The website holds a history of all the receipts and updates the data visualizations based on the spending. The app ultimately encourages the user to stay within their set budgets and save more money monthly, so that they can spend that on paying back their loan. Our website doesn’t only tell the people to pay back the loan but guides them along the way to do so. The website performs calculations in order to determine how much loan they still have left to pay and gives a visual representation of a rocket landing on planets to show their loan repayment journey and how close they are to achieving their goal.
How we built it
To build the app, we made use of HTML/CSS and Bootstrap for the front-end. In order to deal with extracting information from the receipts, we used Google Vision API for reliability and efficiency. Using Node.js, we were able to connect to Google Vision API from our website. Our website is supported by Firebase which allows us to deal with authentication and save the user’s data in a secure database, as well as deploy the application.
Challenges we ran into
The biggest challenge that we ran into was getting the Google Vision API to work as we needed to extract a specific number from receipts no matter what the receipt looked like, or from which company. We made use of tutorials online to guide us through the process, to debug any issues, and ensure that it functions as required. Another challenge we ran into was working together online, since it is difficult to code on the same project while not being able to see each other, and so we used video calls to clarify any doubts and difficulties.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We were all proud of the design of the application that we were able to create in a short period of time. We took the time to make sure that our web application makes use of good UI principles and makes the application really fun for the end user. We are also proud that we were able to make the Google Vision API functional and make the graphs on the web application responsive to the actions of the user. In addition, we are also proud that we were able to make something that has impact and that we can use ourselves, along with thousands of other students, to alleviate the struggles of paying off student loans.
What we learned
In this hackathon, we learned about good design principles by attending the workshop and learned how to apply them to our project as well. We also learned a lot about Google Cloud and the different functionalities that it offers. We did not know how to use Google Vision API and Firebase before this hackathon, and we're glad that we gave it a try, as they were helpful and fairly intuitive to use. We will definitely be using our knowledge gained from this hackathon for future projects and hackathons as well.
What's next for Payoff
Currently, the Google Vision API only looks at the total amount on the receipt. In addition to that, we will be modifying it in the near future so that it can find individual items on the receipts, find the amount paid for each item, and put each item in the right category (rather than the entire receipt amount). We will be working with the NSLSC and banks in the future so that the user can pay off their loan directly from the app. We will also be adding an email notification system so that the user can stay on top of things. A mobile version of the app can allow them to update their information and add receipts on the go.