itda is a local student community platform where students can share their life, talk about their studies, find some study mates, and locally give&receive help during the crisis.
The problem our project solves
As the corona crisis gets longer and most of the face-to-face activities are dangerous, people start to feel disconnected. We focus on students who cannot have the usual interaction with fellow students. It is especially hard for students who are not from the local area, living alone or do not speak the language (e.g. exchange and international students).
The solution we bring to the table
The platform aims to connect students at their university and improve their social interaction virtually and locally. With a focus on students, we also ensure that the community provides a certain level of identity verification to avoid uncomfortable situations. Since people have to stay at home, a small-talk and casual after class discussions about the covered topic are gone. We want to make this happen, by students providing their needs, where other random students can help them. If preferred, they can also easily open Jitsi (video conferencing tool) call and discuss it in detail. It can help with searching for study groups, lab partners, and making new friends. The advantage is that there is no required invitation like to some closed WhatsApp and Facebook group and is open to the whole university. Such an approach encourages interaction among students of different faculties.
The solution's impact on the crisis
Most of the universities offer online lectures, seminars, and possibly also labs. Most of the approaches ensure that the students receive the required information and syllabus content. Nevertheless, an opportunity for interaction in such huge groups is almost impossible, and students are left after the virtual class is over with just an email to the tutor or professor. We try to bring them together and create new means of communication without the need to know each other before. The chat can start randomly by the usage of the virtual cafe feature or in a more structured manner by asking help with a given challenge - Study cafe. In addition, if needed, general tips about Corona, home exercises, or cooking can be shared using the LifeHack. Finally, general help inquires such as sharing masks, groceries, or maybe old electronic can be solved by using the Help community. You can use the itdaSquare to schedule a language tandem and yoga session.
The value of your solution(s) after the crisis
The primary purpose is to connect people in their local community together, share their expertise, and help each to overcome their problems. Currently, the Corona crisis introduced a considerable challenge, but many of them are not new; integration into new groups, language barriers, disconnection with people, searching general tips, and acquiring new contacts, these core elements stay even after the Covid-19. The platform can also be customized for different communities, such as senior citizens.
What have we done during the weekend
From last work, we brought the idea of the student community focused on a single university. However, for this challenge, we created an entirely new front-end to enhance user experience and provide new features based on our priority list. Back-end has changed accordingly to elaborate all front-end features. We had to expend many fundamental blocks. The web application is built using the Python (v3.5+) Flask (v.2+) framework for a back-end and ReactJS/NextJs for front-end. The data are stored in SQLAlchemy and stored in a secret fashion using bcrypt cryptographic library, offering a high level of confidentiality and integrity. We use Jitsi open APIs for support to support our virtual, which establishes a WebRTC session. It is an open-source project, and we are actively searching for developers. We decided on a new application stack running on ReactJs and NextJs. It is the first big web application project we work on from the beginning, and we ran into numerous challenges with the integration of this with the back-end.
The necessities in order to continue the project
The project skeleton is available. However, it requires changes for better integration with various authentication systems. Also, enhanced search features, stability, and better cookie management are needed. However, due to chosen technologies, many functionalities require less adoption time - e.g., platform independence (runs smoothly on phones and desktops). It will also have to be hosted on-premise or in the cloud.
This section introduces all our mentors and people willing to support us in various forms on our journey. Thank you very much for that! It would not be possible to reach the point where we are without you!
- Katerina Zourou: Katerina joined us firstly as a mentor during the #EUvsVirus Hackathon, where she guided us in such a huge event! We ended up being in TOP3 of our challenge, which helped us to move to Matchathon, where she is our Matchmaker and a partner at the same time! She helped us to network and meet people who share the same passion and try to move the project forward.
- Sebastian Mysakowski: Sebastian was excellent technical support during the #EUvsVirus Hackathon and did not mind staying late with us to help us debug our problem. As a result, we could present a minimum viable prototype in such a short time.