I had learned about the concept of an Ecological Footprint in my Environmental Science and Conservation class at UMBC, and it hit me really hard how much of a strain humans are putting on the planet. It was something I was aware of in the past, but seeing it quantified was a much harder thing to swallow. I immediately began reading and looking for ways to reduce my own Footprint. The amount of information was overwhelming, and the size of the changes I would have to make in my own life to contribute in any significant way were staggering. I thought that if it seemed this daunting to me, someone who is passionate about this subject and wanting to dedicate my life to helping solve the problem, it must be truly off putting for someone who is less knowledgeable about the issue as a whole. I thought that it would be helpful for people to have a place to go where, not only is their footprint calculated, but they can get help in reducing that figure.
What it does
This app is built to assess the Carbon emissions and land usage of the user based on a series of questions relating to such things as transportation and eating habits. The app will then present values, display rankings in relation to the users friends and other users across the nation as a way to help the changes become social (because saving the planet will take all of us). Thirdly, the app will present a series of suggestion and challenges to help guide the user to a smaller footprint. Last, the app will conduct weekly surveys of users who can then update their profiles based on their weekly habits. This is one way to track progress.
How we built it
After coming up with the idea I went to my roommate Agniva and asked him if my plan was possible. He was instantly on board. Agniva introduced Deepanjan to the team and the two of them said they would create the backend, architecture, and business logic of the app. I ran into Dave one day on campus and though he was hesitant about his abilities, he agreed to take on the challenge of creating a user interface. I handled the data collection, app design, and writing.
Challenges we ran into
Honestly, I think it was Dave that may have had the biggest challenge. We were asking him to create a working Android interface in 24hrs when interfaces weren't his specialty at all. He had to learn very quickly and implement fresh knowledge.
Deepanjan told me that he and Agniva spent the first 12hrs simply trying to create the platform. I heard there discussions and there were a few times that it sounded really intense.
My challenge was that all the information I wanted was spread across government websites, small scientific organizations and farming blogs. There wasn't a totalitarian database of calculations and data I could draw from.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Having gotten so far in only 24hrs! The meat and bones of the app are created; and it wasn't a small undertaking to get that all done.
What we learned
I think we all learned that coming at a project like this from different specialties and backgrounds is actually a really good thing. We all had a job that we were trying to do and the team really fit together to make this idea a reality.
What's next for SmallFoot
Polishing up the UI and Database. Drawing from more sources would allow for better averages and more accurate measurements to present to the user. We are going to incorporate ways of making recycling easier; and we are going to create an area of the app dedicated to climate change literacy. Finally, we are hoping that in the future we can make the app have a more competitive spirit between users by awarding SmallFoot swag- and maybe even sponsor swag- to make the process of reducing your footprint a more immediate reward.