After witnessing the recent disasters occurring around us, such as Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, and the growing number of people being displaced from their homes indefinitely due to these storms, we wanted to help them find affordable (or free) housing in Miami and connect them with others willing to lend them a place to stay for an extended period of time, in order to help them back on their path to a regular life.
What it does
Our web service allows anyone who has an extra room or property to get in touch with someone who has been affected / displaced by the recent hurricanes or other natural disasters in order to provide them with a cheap/free place to stay for an extended and agreed upon amount of time. Property owners wanting to help may create listings on our site to let those seeking a place to stay know that there is a room available. People seeking housing may create an account quickly and find local listings in order to get in touch with the owner.
How we built it
We created a PHP back-end running on Microsoft's Azure web services with an MS SQL server in order to store our user listing / account / request data. Each page creates a 'Server' PHP object in the back end to handle things like encryption, user account / cookie validation, database connections / queries, and pulling + preparing user data.
Our team designed the front-end of the website using HTML and CSS, incorporating the Bootstrap library (as well as some nice themes!) to quickly put together a polished product in a limited amount of time. Many tweaks were made to the Bootstrap templates to bring the site closer to home.
Challenges we ran into
1) Teaching HTML and CSS to our team members to bring them up to speed for the project. 2) Learning the Azure platform from scratch in order to implement a fully functioning web app. 3) The process of coming up with an idea for a technology not just applicable to Miami, but to many other places facing similar issues.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are proud to have several team members who acquired working knowledge of HTML and CSS from scratch throughout the weekend and came together to create a great looking and functioning service. Additionally, adapting to the Azure platform's versatile SQL server to power our web app was a great experience, and one we will take with us into future projects.
What we learned
Many of us learned how to design and implement websites for the first time. We also learned how to create a functioning system of PHP pages which interact with each other and a database to produce meaningful and potentially life changing results for those affected by these tragedies.
What's next for ShellterMe
I. Providing a gateway for external funding on the service to help cover the costs for those seeking help and those generously offering their homes. II. Displaying local listings on a map (through Google Maps API) for those seeking help. III. Implementing a chat system to facilitate communication between the two parties.