Inspiration

The recent 2016 Presidential election revealed some insights into American democracy. People all around found themselves scrambling for their voices to be heard.

As new voters, we had the opportunity to exercise our voices in American democracy for the first time in the 2016 Presidential election. However, we now need a way to initiate change beyond the ballot box. Many citizens don't even know who represents them, so it is clearly difficult to voice ideas and contact members of government. In a recent poll, 77% of millenials could not even name one senator from his or her home state (http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/poll-millennials-state-senators-114867).

We wanted to streamline and make accessible the process of forming these relationships between constituents and Congresspersons, as we believed that this would be by far the best way to create real change through our cherished democratic process.

What it does

By just entering your zip code, something that most everyone knows, users can not only find out who their Congressional representatives are, but contact them directly through email. Upon clicking the "send mail" link next to their Congressperson's name, the user's computer's email app opens with a pre-made e-mail template that formats the email but allows for personalization, making voicing concerns easy.

In addition, with the use of a RSS feed from The New York Times, we bring current important geopolitical issues to the minds of voters, increasing awareness and saliency. This enables users to have the appropriate background knowledge in order to be informed when addressing issues. This not only allows people to educate themselves, but also turn that education into political action.

How I built it

We used HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to develop the website.

We discovered an API that would return a list of information about Congresspeople organized by zip code and used this API as the backbone of our project. With handlebars.js, we were able to use this API in JavaScript to output unique HTML code on our website based on the zip code input.

Furthermore, we used handlebars.js to construct an email template that would open when the user selects the link "Send Mail".

We further implemented an RSS feed into our html for a feed of important news.

Challenges I ran into

The toughest challenges was outputting the right Congressperson and e-mail according to the inputted zip code. As first-time hackers, this was a very new experience but we definitely learned a lot, exploring the functionality of JavaScript. We discovered a method to update the URL based on the zip code input, allowing the JavaScript program to access this zip code and return the Congressperson name and contact information.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

We were proud of the design of the website itself. By implementing Google Fonts, using aesthetic images, and playing around with padding and position, we made something that looks great.

In addition, taking and sorting the data from the API was a task that we were glad we could take on and accomplish.

Overall, the entire project was an accomplishment to be proud of -- our first hack, and something that truly has the potential to impact thousands of people.

What I learned

We each gained working proficiency in a variety of languages, from HTML to CSS to JavaScript. Coding became more natural to us.

In addition to the technical knowledge acquired, we learned about teamwork and collaboration through coding. The delegation and organization of tasks really was beautiful when everything came together.

What's next for RepLink

We want to implement RepLink across communities we are involved in. After this, we could expand the database so that we can inform people of not just their Congresspeople, but also of their Senators, State Assembly members, City Council members, etc. We truly believe in the power of each person's individual voice, and with RepLink, we can progress to a more diverse and open-minded society where many views can be expressed and represented.

Share this project:
×

Updates