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Electronic waste -- or e-waste -- is a sustainability issue that continues to grow rapidly more critical. The Global E-Waste Statistics Partnership, founded in part by the United Nations University, documented a record 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste generated in 2019 alone -- up 21% in five years, demonstrating the enormous burden humanity has put on themselves and the environment through excessive material consumption. However, even though numerous consumers and corporations dispose of e-waste every day, only 20% of e-waste is ever recycled.

At the same time, wealth inequality has created a great imbalance of access to technology both globally and within the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these differences, and made it harder for working adults and children in distance learning to access the tools they need. More than two-thirds of countries have introduced a national distance learning platform, but among low-income countries the share is only 30 percent. Before this crisis, almost one third of the world’s young people were already digitally excluded.

While our old technology lies around collecting dust after updating to the latest models, other consumers and facilities are in need of secondhand technology. To solve this issue, we developed a website designed to facilitate the reuse of electronic products as well as provide funds and secondhand technology for those in need.

What it does:

TechShare is a marketplace for technology exchange. Individuals and companies can donate or post listings for their electronic products, and, unlike other for-profit corporations, sellers can choose to have 20-100% of profits donated to charities for expanding access to technology, COVID-19 relief, etc. Additionally, public facilities like schools, libraries, and shelters can request donations of computers and other technology. This would help reduce the number of digitally excluded students around the world and allow more schools to implement distance learning platforms during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How we built it:

Before we could even begin we had to choose a method of sharing code, after considering a couple including git we settled on Then, we began by flushing out the basic concepts that would form the backbone of our project, setting up Firebase to use as our database and TravelTime for geocoding. With these in place we split up and began to work on the pages of our website, using Javascript to design two pages to buy and sell products, as well as create the sign up and login interfaces. After completing most of these larger pieces, we were able to get into the finer details. We finished with the fine tuning of CSS3 and the HTML5 to ensure the UI was clean and easy to make sense of.

Challenges we ran into:

Since all of us were more experienced in backend development, it was challenging but fun to try and envision the frontend on this project. In addition, none of us had ever worked with Firebase or TravelTime before, which required a lot of research as well as adjustment to their unique quirks. On the backend, due to the website’s multiple HTML pages we had to learn how to pass variables through different pages, and in order to limit listings based on distance to the buyer we learned to use geocoders and calculate the distance between different locations. The Buy page in particular gave us a lot of trouble because the asynchronous nature of Javascript allowed the code to run non sequentially, which messed up our search features.

Accomplishments that we're proud of:

We successfully integrated a Firebase database into our project, allowing users to sign up and create their own accounts, as well as keeping track of which user is logged in on each page. We also figured out how to store each user’s own listings with their profile as well as products that they’re interested in buying. Although we ran into several issues with the Buy page as well as front end UI, we solved them within the hacking period and created a product that all of us are proud of.

What we learned:

Starting off with minimal experience in JavaScript created the opportunity for huge leaps in knowledge dealing with asynchronous functions. The hours spent researching way after way to keep code running in sequence will not soon be forgotten. As with any Html Project we also gained more knowledge in working with CSS, learning the subtleties that can make or break the design of websites. Working with Firebase was also a good intro into what goes into a database, and the methods and mechanics of creating, searching, and getting.

What's next for TechShare:

Next steps for TechShare would be an expansion on some of the features that would improve the functionality. Options such as filtering, and sorting our searches, and creating bids for item listings were functions that didn’t quite make the cut this version. A system for dealing with payments and a more robust encryption service will also need to be implemented.

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