Our group having worked with young students virtually, we were aware that keeping students engaged can be very challenging, and modeling arithmetic without physical models or blocks to work with is difficult or impossible. Our goal was to create a simple, intuitive tool which students and teachers could use for modeling.
What it does
Visual Arithmetech allows users to add blocks and group them into groups of up to 10 by dragging blocks together. The left and right buckets count the number of blocks in each of them, and by selecting a basic operation all the blocks will be deleted and replaced by the resulting number of the operation. There is also a clear button which removes all blocks from the scene.
How we built it
Visual Arithmetech was built in Unity, built for WebGL, uploaded on Simmer.io, and hosted on a website using Domain.com. First, an initial prototype of the block prefabs was created to ensure the blocks functioned on their own before the prototype was expanded to include visuals and additional functionality. Once this prototype worked, we added the buckets (with counting system), implemented ui elements, altered the visuals, and finally added the arithmetic functions.
Challenges we ran into
There was plenty of debugging along the way as a result of strange collisions from the physics engine. Not to mention that some seemingly simple problems ended up being rather complicated, such as ensuring the bucket counts stayed consistent when blocks were combined, or the red-ish lines bordering the blocks. By far our largest challenge was using Domain.com to host the app, which ended up requiring many expert opinions and visual compromises to get functioning.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're proud of the fact that we made a functional and useful design in the 24 hour time window. Despite this being our first hackathon, we successfully brainstormed and developed an app which isn't too messy, and can be easily expanded.
What we learned
Some of us had never used Unity before, and as a result got a basic understanding of the Unity ui. We learned that Google hates Domain.com, that Domain.com hates Simmer.io, that Simmer.io hates compression, and that physics engines can only handle so much. We were also reminded that C# is a far superior language to C++.
What's next for Visual Arithmetech
During our initial brainstorming we came up with many features which we had set aside as "features if we have time". Most importantly, we'd like to expand Visual Arithmetech to be more playful. The current form of the app is just a "sandbox", where users can mess around with blocks, but we could easily include a system where a user would have to use arithmetic to reach a certain number using as few blocks and/or button presses as possible. We could also expand the game to include more complex functions or mathematical models, such as exponents or factorials.