Interview with iTest, Winners of the TecHacks Hackathon

Interview with iTest, Winners of the TecHacks Hackathon

The TecHacks Hackathon is aimed at bridging the the gender gap by enabling female students to find passion in computer science and problem solving. All 552 hackathon participants self-identify as female or nonbinary and are high school or undergraduate students. A total of 119 projects were submitted.

Through an email interview, I was able to ask Jolina, Carmel, and Lorina, who created iTest, some questions about their hackathon experience. The team was able to win the Qoom challenge portion of the hackathon amongst fierce competition.

Q: Can you introduce yourselves please?

J: Hi! I’m Jolina and I’m a first year student at University of Toronto. I’m planning on doing a double major in Computer Science and Cognitive Science, with potentially a focus on AI.

C: Hello, I’m Carmel, and I plan on majoring in Life Science and Computer Science.

L: Hey :) I’m Larina. I’m entering first year general engineering at Northwestern University. I’m not sure about my major yet, but I have interests in materials science, AI, IoT, and sustainability.

Q: Can you tell us about your project and how you came up with the idea?

J: iTest is a website that features multiple eye tests that help you conveniently check your eye health for underlying neurological problems. The tests are easily accessible and fun to do. I think we were talking about using your eyes to control the screen and this eye tracking tool, then the convo topic somehow turned into eye tests...

C: Due to covid, a lot of individuals don’t necessarily have access to the healthcare concerning conditions that are deemed less severe, so we wanted to create a simple diagnostic tool to help individuals access the information they need when that information is not easily accessible.

L: The problem our project is trying to solve is actually quite personal to me. I have regular check-ups with my doctor, but recently due to covid-19, my check-up was reduced to a single short phone call. As a result, we couldn’t do some of our usual check-up exams, and this really made me wish for more and better telemedicine tools. During the hackathon, our team was talking about eye exam check-ups, which made me recall my own check-ups, and then I was like “Hey! You know what might be a cool idea...?”

Q: How much coding experience do you have?

J: My very first coding experience was in Grade 6, where I basically copied HTML files to create my first “Hello World” website. I didn’t take any Computer Science classes in high school, but I self-studied Python and MIT AppInventor’s block-based coding for a competition. Now, I’m learning CSS, Javascript, and re-learning HTML for our Qoom project.

C: I started coding in grade 5 for fun, and I taught myself HTML, CSS, and Javascript/Jquery using online resources. I would then use my web-design skills to create school projects instead of using powerpoints or prezis, because I could have full control over how I wanted my website/project to appear.

L: I have used snippets of code here and there for various small projects since grade 10, but the first time I actually learned about programming was only 1 year ago in my AP computer science class at school. Since then, I’ve been teaching myself various languages to do more fun projects. This summer, I’ve been learning machine learning with a scholarship program, and I’m going to self study more on CSS, Javascript, and HTML for our Qoom project.

Q: Why did you decide to participate in this Hackathon?

J: I’ve always been curious about the Hackathon experience, but I never really dared to do one because of my lack of skills. Then, I came across TecHacks and saw “No experience required” which immediately caught my attention. I thought, this was my chance to finally try out a Hackathon (and a virtual one for the first). Not to mention, the workshops about AI and Machine Learning allured me further.

C: I was introduced to the Hackathon by my teammate Jolina, and I thought it would be a good way to practise my coding skills, while picking up new skills with all the workshops the hackathon offered. I also wanted to apply my skills under a competitive environment and see what we could produce as a team under time pressure.

L: This was also my first hackathon. I’m all for trying out new things and challenges, so when I came across this hackathon, I just thought “why not?” Plus, the workshops looked very interesting, and I was super excited for them!

Q: Did you run into any problems or challenges during the Hackathon? How did you resolve them?

J: Yes, we had quite a few problems—from not really knowing the languages of Qoom (HTML,CSS, Javascript) to a huge time pressure. A specific problem that I had was after creating homepage designs on Figma, I didn’t know how to build them up with code in Qoom. After some experimenting, I managed to get the title, description, header image, and “Test Now” button up there, but still everything looked super messy. I, then, messaged Kiae, the Qoom mentor, for help and she offered a lot of great advice around resizing, gradient colours, and more. Finally, the homepage started looking better.

C: Time pressure was a challenge for me, as I knew what we were capable of as a team,but I was unsure about what we could achieve given the time we had. Due to time pressure, even after pulling an all-nighter, we only completed one test fully, though we completed one level for the two other tests (to demonstrate an example of what it was). Debugging was a very long process, and would occasionally take up an hour to find the issue (big or small), and to resolve it. Thanks to Kiae, she helped with the debugging process, and helped us move our focus back on producing the actual product.

L: My biggest challenge was definitely that, at the beginning, I had absolutely no experience with the languages Qoom uses. At first, I felt really bad because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to contribute. Thanks to Carmel’s awesome 10-minute CSS, html, and Javascript crash course, I started to get the gist of how things fit together in a website. Then, I went on Youtube and other online resources to learn (and sometimes copy) specific code snippets that I needed. I was also able to draw on my experience with other programming languages to help me work with these new languages.

Q: How did you learn about Qoom? Why did you decide to use Qoom?

C: I learned about Qoom after investigating the different platforms/tools that the Hackathon featured, and I thought Qoom would be a good tool to use, as we all had knowledge of at least one language Qoom used (Javascript).

Q: What did you use Qoom for?

All: We used Qoom for implementing designs created on Figma and creating functional eye tests for testing extraocular movement, using HTML, CSS, and Javascript/Jquery.

Q: What was your overall impression of Qoom?

J: In such a short amount of time, we were able to design and develop a beautiful website using Qoom. I think Qoom is very beginner-friendly, easy to navigate, and efficient in the development process.

C: I remember a couple of years ago looking for a platform like Qoom to code websites online, but not being able to find one, or finding a platform that was difficult to use.

C: Qoom is very straightforward, has a good text editor, and is something I will definitely use to collaborate on in the future.

L: As a beginner to web design, I liked how Qoom was easy to understand and navigate. I really appreciated that Qoom allowed me to focus on learning and developing the website and not be caught up in a whirlwind of extraneous technical work.

Q: How does Qoom stand out from other coding tools?

J: I’m not too familiar with other coding tools, but I can say the environment gives you an easier time organizing code and finding errors. It also has a screen feature where you can see a live update of your website as you code.

C: One unique item about Qoom is its collaborative features. Though I know more improvements are being added to this specific feature, updates carry over to the recently updated text document with a simple reload, which makes collaborating on the document possible.

Due to this feature, our team was able to work together on the website, and improve it as we could see the updates that someone else was responsible for.

L: As a web development beginner, I can’t really provide accurate comparisons between Qoom and other web design tools. However, I can say that some other coding tools that I have used for other types of projects were a lot more difficult to navigate in comparison to Qoom. I like how intuitive Qoom is to use.

Q: What recommendations or tips would you have for a first-time developer using Qoom?

J: Don’t be afraid to play around with different Qoom features. There’s a lot you can explore, and the more you interact with the environment, the more familiar you will be with using Qoom! You can also create multiple copy files of your original, so your progress is saved as you try out different things.

L: I 100% agree with Jolina.

I built a lot of features through trial and error. Since Qoom does have many features that support this (such live update), I highly recommend using the trial and error process to help you learn and build.

Another tip is to always ask for help. The languages Qoom uses is very commonplace, so there are a lot of great resources out there.

Q: What is next for your project?

All: We are currently doing some research with eye health experts to improve iTest’s efficiency in the health tool field. Our long-term goal is to make iTest helpful and impactful in the healthcare industry.

Qoom was a proud sponsor of the TecHacks Hackathon. If you are planning on hosting a hackathon yourself, please contact us!

Want to see what Jolina, Carmel and Larina created with Qoom? Want to try iTest: The Online Extraocular Eye Exam for yourself? Click here.

Build a project like iTest yourself! Get started now by creating your own Qoom account! Start Now!

Originally written by Yanran Le, August 25 2020