Andrea Tongsak, Vivian Zhang, Alyssa Tan, and Mira Tellegen
- Route: Hack for Resilience
- Route: Best Education Hack
We were inspired to focus our hack on the rise of instagram accounts exposing sexual assault stories from college campuses across the US, including the Case Western Reserve University account @cwru.survivors; and the history of sexual assault on campuses nationwide. We wanted to create an iOS app that would help sexual assault survivors and students navigate the dangerous reality of college campuses. With our app, it will be easier for a survivor report instances of harassment, while maintaining the integrity of the user data, and ensuring that data is anonymous and randomized. Our app will map safe and dangerous areas on campus based on user data to help women, minorities, and sexual assault survivors feel protected.
"When I looked in the mirror the next day, I could hardly recognize myself. Physically, emotionally, and mentally." -A submission on @cwru.survivors IG page
Even with the #MeToo movement, there's only so much that technology can do. However, we hope that by creating this app, we will help college students take accountability and create a campus culture that can fosters learning and contributes towards social good.
"The friendly guy who helps you move and assists senior citizens in the pool is the same guy who assaulted me. One person can be capable of both. Society often fails to wrap its head around the fact that these truths often coexist, they are not mutually exclusive." - Chanel Miller
- We started with the idea of mapping sexual assaults that happen on college campuses. However, throughout the weekend, we were able to brainstorm a lot of directions to take the app in.
- We considered making the app a platform focused on telling the stories of sexual assault survivors through maps containing quotes, but decided to pivot based on security concerns about protecting the identity of survivors, and to pivot towards an app that had an everyday functionality
- We were interested in implementing an emergency messaging app that would alert friends to dangerous situations on campus, but found similar apps existed, so kept brainstorming towards something more original
- We were inspired by the heat map functionality of SnapMaps, and decided to pursue the idea of creating a map that showed where users had reported danger or sexual assault on campus. With this idea, the app could be interactive for the user, present a platform for sexual assault survivors to share where they had been assaulted, and a hub for women and minorities to check the safety of their surroundings. The app would customize to a campus based on the app users in the area protecting each other
What it does
- Our app allows users to create a profile, then sign in to view a map of their college campus or area. The map in the app shows a heat map of dangerous areas on campus, from areas with a lot of assaults or danger reported, to areas where app users have felt safe.
- This map is generated by allowing users to anonymously submit a date, address, and story related to sexual assault or feeling unsafe. Then, the map is generated by the user data
- Therefore, users of the app can assess their safety based on other students' experiences, and understand how to protect themselves on campus.
- Account creation and sign in function using Firebox, to allow users to have accounts and profiles
- Home screen with heat map of dangerous locations in the area, using the Mapbox SDK
- Profile screen, listing contact information and displaying the user's past submissions of dangerous locations
- Submission screen, where users can enter an address, time, and story related to a dangerous area on campus
How we built it
- Mapbox SDK
- XCode & Swift
- Adobe Illustrator
- Google Cloud
Mentors & Help
- Ryan Matsumoto
- Rachel Lovell
Challenges we ran into
- Integrating an outside mapping service came with a variety of difficulties. We ran into problems learning their platform and troubleshooting errors with the Mapbox view. Furthermore, Mapbox has a lot of navigation functionality. Since our goal was a data map with a lot of visual effect and easy readability, we had to translate the Mapbox SDK to be usable with lots of data inputs. This meant coding so that the map would auto-adjust with each new data submission of dangerous locations on campus.
UI Privacy Concerns
- The Mapbox SDK was created to be able to pin very specific locations. However, our app deals with data points of locations of sexual assault, or unsafe locations. This brings up the concern of protecting the privacy of the people who submit addresses, and ensuring that users can't see the exact location submitted. So, we had to adjust the code to limit how far a user can zoom in, and to read as a heat map of general location, rather than pins.
Coding for non-tech users
- Our app, viva, was designed to be used by college students on their nights out, or at parties. The idea would be for them to check the safety of their area while walking home or while out with friends. So, we had to appeal to an audience of young people using the app in their free time or during special occasions. This meant the app would not appeal if it seemed tech-y or hard to use. So, we had to work to incorporate a lot of functionalities, and a user interface that was easy to use and appealing to young people. This included allowing them to make accounts, having an easily readable map, creating a submission page, and incorporating design elements.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
What we learned
We learned so much about so many different aspects of coding while hacking this app. First, the majority of the people in our group had never used Github before, so even just setting up Github Desktop, coordinating pushes, and allowing permissions was a struggle. We feel we have mastery of Github after the project, whereas before it was brand new. Being remote, we also faced Xcode compatibility issues, to the point that one person in our group couldn't demo the app based on her Xcode version. So, we learned a lot about troubleshooting systems we weren't familiar with, and finding support forums and creative solutions.
In terms of code, we had rarely worked in Swift, and never worked in Mapbox SDK, so learning how to adapt to a new SDK and integrate it while not knowing everything about the errors appearing was a huge learning experience. This involved working with .netrc files and permissions, and gave us insight to the coding aspect as well as the computers networks aspect of the project.
We also learned how to adapt to an audience, going through many drafts of the UI to hit on one that we thought would appeal to college students.
Last, we learned that what we heard in opening ceremony, about the importance of passion for the code, is true. We all feel like we have personally experienced the feeling of being unsafe on campus. We feel like we understand how difficult it can be for women and minorities on campus to feel at ease, with the culture of sexual predation on women, and the administration's blind eye. We put those emotions into the app, and we found that our shared experience as a group made us feel really connected to the project. Because we invested so much, the other things that we learned sunk in deep.
What's next for Viva: an iOS app to map dangerous areas on college campuses
- A stretch goal or next step would be to use the AdaFruit Bluefruit device to create wearable hardware, that when tapped records danger to the app. This would allow users to easily report danger with the hardware, without opening the app, and have the potential to open up other safety features of the app in the future.
- We conducted a survey of college students, and 95.65% of people who responded thought our app would be an effective way to keep themselves safe on campus. A lot of them additionally requested a way to connect with other survivors or other people who have felt unsafe on campus. One responder suggested we add "ways to stay calm and remind you that nothing's your fault". So, another next step would be to add forums and messaging for users, to forward our goal of connecting survivors through the platform.