As the world struggles with Covid-19, certain problems which previously existed are being brought to light, and are becoming more significant. One of these problems is the so-called “Homework Gap”. The homework gap is a term used to describe the situation where certain students may not have access to technology at home, and therefore are unable to complete their homework to the same extent, or do as well as their peers with readily available technology at home. We are attempting to shrink this homework gap, and find a way to put technology in the hands of people who need it.
What it does
Many of us have old devices lying around. As I am sitting here I can see a 7 year old tablet and an ancient computer which I am keeping in a drawer. We realized that perhaps this problem is not a problem of not having enough technology, but perhaps it is not properly distributing the technology.
We are working on a way for people who need technology to connect with people who have old technology they don’t need anymore. Many people choose to upgrade their devices not because it doesn’t work, but because it has a few inconveniences. Examples would include a short battery life, weight of the device, and or simply that it has become too slow. These computers are still usable, and can greatly help someone who needs it, so we plan on redistributing these abandoned computers to people who need them!
How we built it
We are working on building a website which will allow users to input their information, and select whether they are offering a computer, or need a computer. They will fill out a quick survey, indicating what they will use the computer for, or which computer they are offering, and an algorithm will match people who need a computer to the people who have a computer to give.
To build the front end of the website, we used a free HTML template we found online, it ended up very heavily modified. Credit is given to the designer of the template at the bottom of every page on our website. Using this basic framework we subbed in our information and added the functionality we needed (extra buttons, and so forth).
For the back end we hosted it using Google Firebase, and built a simple database which will be used to store the information from the people who want to donate a computer, and compare it to the people who need a computer, to find a match quickly and effectively.
And for the domain name we registered it with domain.com! We our domain is redistribute.tech. It may not be working yet, so the other way to access it is sharetech.web.app (sharetech was the original name, before we fond 3 other projects called sharetech on the internet).
Challenges we ran into
It was more complicated then we thought! Like way more. We started the hackathon worrying it wouldn't be complex enough, but ended up realizing we have a lot to learn! It is good. I don't think we did anything that worked the first time, which is challenging, making it difficult to stick through with it, but we made it!
The website still doesn't fully work, we are missing elements like the email contacting, and the website goes down every now and then, but it is a lot closer then we though possible about half way through.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are very proud of every thing we accomplished! A lot of us knew how to build things theoretically, but doing it in practice, in 24 hours is a lot more difficult. And yet we still succeeded! It is really cool to see how far the project came.
What we learned
We learned that things sound easy when you talk through them, but very often they aren't as easy as we think. So expect things to take longer, and be harder then you expect!
What's next for Technology Redistribution Program
At the moment, we do not have any plans. If the idea is popular with people other then us, we will possibly look into implementing it. Before that happens though, we will be getting in touch with social workers, and other organizations who work with the people we are aiming to help, and work on making our system work for them, and refining the process further.