I am currently applying to REU programs and noticed how difficult it was to search through the data on the NSF website. Thus, I really wanted to make a program to make viewing different programs of different regions and fields of research more user-friendly and visually-pleasing.
What it does
REyou is a play on words of REU and is meant to make the application process to Research Experiences for Undergraduates easier. It allows for search based on subject area (ex: mathematical sciences) and (optionally) specific topics of research (ex: number theory). The current NSF website does not allow for an easy search option for specific topics of research. Additionally, REyou displays the location of programs that match your search criteria on a map. This makes it easier to visualize the geographical locations of each program. Currently, the NSF site only lets you sort programs by location alphabetically, which is not useful at all.
How we built it
I built REyou in R as a Shiny application. I also used some HTML and CSS for certain functions within my R code. I downloading the .csv files from the NSF website and used the Google Cloud Geocoding API to provide approximate latitude and longitude values for each REU program based on the institution name. I then provided these values to my calls to functions from the
leaflet package to display the map. I also used the
shinyWidgets package for a more aesthetically pleasing look for the checkboxes.
Challenges we ran into
This was my first time making a Shiny app, so I definitely struggled with getting everything to look as intended. In the beginning, everything was vertically oriented and the text was all the same size. It was very bland and not very visually appealing. Another issue I dealt with was whitespace. Often adjacent text/tables/buttons would be smushed against each other. I also had an issue deploying my shiny app at first. I checked the log and was able to easily fix the error. I had locally loaded a package that I did not include as a function call in my code.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
I'm very proud to have developed a whole application in such a short period of time, by myself! I learned a lot about using the
shiny package. I'm very proud of my overall project and in the future hope to expand the search criteria to include more options.
What we learned
Looking back on it, I probably should have written down a plan for how I wanted the webpage to look and how I would accomplish it. I learned many new functions from the various packages I used in R. I also learned how to work fast on a project and get it done.
What's next for REyou
In the future, I want to add more search options, including more subjects (biological sciences, chemistry, etc.) and all of the specific topics for the computer science REUs.
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