Last year, my friend and I experienced an uncomfortable situation where a guy we didn't know followed us around between classes and after school. We got very worried and stressed and always wondered what would happen if he had been more violent. This inspired us to create Varen.
Varen is an app meant to help people, no matter their situation. There is an Alert button for emergencies, and a map of safe spaces if nothing has happened yet but might as well as a User Information form to record past experiences that authorities could use for evidence.
We built Varen using AppInventor. We mostly used global variables in order to store data input from the user into the app. We also added some features to automate the process of recording audio and calling authorities at the same time. Lastly, we formatted the app to have a dark background for concealment(EG: running/hiding from someone at night) and color-coded buttons to easily distinguish between features.
Our main challenge was trying to get the location/user GPS to actually work. Instead of identifying the user's location, the coordinates kept going to either Africa (since Africa's coordinates are the center of the Earth) or the East Coast (because MIT's software defaults to go to Boston, where MIT is based). We were also unsure as to how we would merge the code, since we had built different screens on separate devices and accounts. Although the user phone will bring up an error for the emergency call(even though all permissions are enabled), the code works; if the error message did not appear, then the code never called for it.
We are very proud of our final product, which functions exactly as we wanted it to. It took us a long time to get every component functional, and each one threw us challenges that we had to debug. However, our hard work paid off and created a beautiful final app.
We learned the importance of carrying a good attitude and constantly learning throughout this experience. Instead of getting frustrated, we took short breaks to brainstorm and discuss other possibilities amongst our teammates. This allowed us to keep an open mind and explore other ways to solve our problems besides the ones we had been trying already.
We hope to expand Varen into a global app that anyone experiencing harassment can use to feel safer. We also hope to add a messaging chat for survivors to discuss their experiences and feel less alone. It would be amazing to connect with the WhyIKeptQuiet in order to further vocalize the experiences that survivors went through.