We actually found this idea on a Reddit post when we were looking for inspiration, and we both liked the idea right away, because it helps solve a pretty significant problem that currently seems to be overlooked by technology. When we researched how search parties are normally conducted, we found that essentially different people are assigned to different parts of a map, and we thought technology could definitely improve that process. Plus, if that's true, we hope it could make a serious impact on people's lives.
What it does
Search Aid allows users to join a search party by entering a code and then provides them with a map of the area shaded in to show searched areas. This helps ensure that no areas are left unsearched, and also that none are over-searched. The map updates live, allowing members of the search party to view it while they search and make sure they're covering new ground.
How we built it
We used the Google Maps api through React Native to display a map on the screen and track where different users are. This api allows us to also create polygons, so whenever a user moves on the map, their area gets filled in with rectangles. Each search party has its own "room," and this room has a code that can be distributed to all the members of the search party.
Challenges we ran into
Setting up the development environment for our Android app was a pretty big challenge, especially because the person doing that job is not really a developer. (That's me, hi!) I've had trouble setting up Android Studio in the past, and this time was similar, causing me to use Expo instead. Other than this taking up a good chunk of time and being a bit frustrating, it wasn't too costly, though and was definitely a valuable lesson we'll get into in "What we learned."
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're really proud to have made a working application with only two people -- and really only one developer. We both enjoy working on problems that will make an impact on people's lives, so we're really happy to have at least worked towards making an application that can potentially do that.
What we learned
The situation with the development environment definitely taught us to not underestimate the time something like set up can take. Even though it sounds like it'll be quick and easy, it can involve a lot of complex steps, especially if you're new to that sort of thing. It was also a lesson in knowing when to cut our losses and try something we know will be simpler to set up, even if it isn't the absolute best solution. It can be easy to get stubborn in these situations, but in a time crunch we have to let our ego go and do what will work the best.
We both also learned new technical skills like working with React Native and the Google Maps api as well as location services in general.
What's next for Search Aid
Since our hope is that this could make a difference in the way search parties work, it would be pretty great to launch it on the Play Store, but of course we have some more development to do before then. Another feature we'd really like to include is the ability to select an area you're going to start searching, so that other people can see that someone has that area covered, even if it hasn't been searched yet.