Inspiration

The environment is complicated. Faced with the daunting complexity of the system, we are often left dazed and confused. We feel like there cannot possibly be a way for us to comprehend, much less change the world around us. But that is not the case. Each one of us has the responsibility and power to shape the environment for future generations. Thus, we were led to create Phyto, an app that delivers and contextualizes the relevant environmental news to the user, helping them understand the world and empowering them to make a change.

What it does

Phyto delivers the environmental news that matters to you. The goal is to deliver articles that are personally relevant to each user. Based on the user's inputted preferences and location, we use Intellico's Machine Learning AI to find the most engaging content. Though changing the environment requires global cooperation, it is motivating to hear about local issues and how to change them.

Phyto helps you understand the environment. Simply delivering the news is not enough. While a consensus of 97% of international scientists agree on the need to act now against climate change, only 54% of Americans list it as a top priority. Why is there such a disparity? Because the way news is delivered is conflicting, partisan, and ultimately, confusing. Phyto helps you get around that by providing clear supplementary resources to the results.

Phyto empowers you to change the world. Phyto arms you with the information to fix the environmental problems in your area. With our mobile app, we deliver the best methods for users to better the environment.

How We built it

We took a two-pronged approach to Phyto, creating both a web site as well as a mobile Android app. This combines the two approaches of changing the environment.

After we brainstormed the idea during dinner, Willie constructed our website with Sinatra, a web application framework written in Ruby. The Indico.io framework was seamlessly integrated into our code to deliver accurate web results. I mainly worked on the frontend, where I used the HAML template language to quickly deploy our web site with Bootstrap.

From Nirmal We were coding the Android side to Phyto. For a long time, development lagged, but we got this amazing idea quite late at 9am and then we got down to work. We had to create a server with a python, which we had just started learning, along with its web framework Django, and on the client side, we also needed to create an Android App version of it. I built the foundation of both the front-end and back-end while Nirajan fleshed out the features.

We kinda kept going, and this morning at 9am, the idea popped up on our discussion which was to come up with something that is alluring, and with this attraction, we can send important global warming messages around indirectly. It was an idea of saving money, that everyone loves doing so, and at the same time, they are saving the environment! Remove Remove Remove

Challenges I ran into

One of our biggest challenges was deciding how to help the user understand the news. At first, we sought to visualize the data with tag clouds, with Leap Motion integration to fully immerse the user. However, this proved to be both difficult to program and difficult to understand. Having the words swirl around in a circle was not enlightening for the user and we ultimately scrapped it for our tree-based model.

From Nirmal Having to learn new technology and to implement it, it was hard and frustrating not being able to get answers and having to search for a while. It was pretty stressful in that sense, as the time was limited! But it was fun.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I am proud that I only slept two hours this whole time. I was really surprised by how fun the hackathon made the time feel!

As it was my first hackathon, in the early hours I was discouraged. My code wasn't working, my team was trailblazing, and I had nothing working to speak for. However, as the time passed, I discovered I was learning and could contribute to the project in my own way. I am proud to stand behind this product we developed.

From Nirmal Coming out with an idea in late hours and and then building upon it in limited time was something that we are proud of. I also learned how to manage time quite properly.

What I learned

Over the time, I learned in a trial by fire a litany of tools (node.js, indico.io, Leap Motion, ruby, jade, haml, bootstrap, Unity). Although most of my attempts failed, I was able to discover tools that could do what I want. I also learned a lot by talking to people about everything from teamwork and entrepreneurship to life.

What's next for Phyto

We seek to further integrate the two Phyto apps. By more intricately connecting our two interfaces, we can enable further environmental change. Also, we will expand the topic of our news apps to different fields. Finally, it may be promising to work with Indico.io to further their machine learning capabilities.

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