The inspiration behind our project was the desire to connect with people from all over the globe through technology in a "pen pal" format. We wanted to create a platform that would allow people to interact and learn from those of different perspectives and backgrounds, thereby becoming better global citizens. Therefore the PenPalTel app came to life.
Having a pen pal has always been a unique and special way to learn about other cultures, people, and lifestyles. However, there are restrictions to this traditional way of interacting with a pen pal, including a time-consuming process and slow communication time. With the rise of technology, we wanted to make this experience easier, faster, and more accessible for everyone. That led to us creating a platform that allows for anonymous chats between users who don't know each other, solving the problem of needing to already know someone before learning from and interacting with them.
What We Learned:
During the creation of this project, we learned how to use MIT App Inventor. Specifically, we learned how to create a login and sign-up page, connect to a database in order to retrieve user information, create profiles, and create a messaging function using an encrypted phone number. We also learned the importance of asking for help, following tutorials, and researching while working on a project.
How We Built the Project:
We used MIT App Inventor to create this project through block code and several YouTube tutorials. Initially, we followed a YouTube video to create a login and sign-up page. We also connected to a database to retrieve user information and used that information to verify identities when returning users logged in. Next, we created a profile setup screen where users could input information such as their name, age, country, language, phone number, and preferences in a short bio. The home button allowed users to go back to the login page, and the message button took users to the messaging screen. On the messaging screen, the app would randomly generate another user for them to interact with. Users could then create letters and send them to the other user via an encrypted phone number through the app. Users could also view received messages.
Challenges Faced/Future Plans:
One of the challenges we faced was being unable to add a translator function. Even though we knew what block code would be used to create a translator, we were unable to find a free API to execute our plan. As we were planning the functions of our app, we found it important to add a translating function to allow people to connect with a more diverse group of pen pals, furthering their perspective of the world. In the future, we plan on putting more time into researching a free API that would allow us to add a translation function to the app. Another challenge was the randomization of the user generator due to a lack of users. In addition, we also faced difficulties with a lack of time, finding out how to create a drop-down menu, and App Inventor's lack of a collaborative environment. This meant that we had to work on separate computers and then repeat what we did on one computer, which took up a lot of time and resources and made it difficult to fully put the pieces together. Additionally, we had to learn as we were coding, which required us to research problems and ask for help.
Overall, we are proud of the project we have created and the skills we have learned during the process. We would like to thank Emily and Ms. Kelly for their support and help throughout the project. We hope that our platform will continue to connect people from all over the world, fostering understanding, and promoting a better global community.