Community help during Covid and beyond
Meet TheHeroLoop team — regional winner of Call for Code in Europe
By Stephanie Cleijpool
After TheHeroLoop had been announced as regional winner of the Call for Code Challenge in Europe I had the honor of interviewing two of the team members of TheHeroLoop. It’s inspiring to hear the story and their motivation behind the solution.
Let me start by introducing you to TheHeroLoop team:
Bente Acking — Idea, Architect, Project Owner — Borstahusen, Sverige
Ruthy Lichtenstein — UX / Designer — New York, USA
Suneetha Jonnadula — Fullstack — Hyderabad Indien
Emmanuel Murairi — Blockchain — Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Keertie Bhogaraju — AI / ML, Los Angeles — USA
Check out how their solution works in this great video:
Can you tell us a little more about the solution?
Bente: The Hero Loop MVP is a responsive web app that matches volunteers (Hero’s) with those in need of help (Looper’s) based on where you are in real time, skills and availability. To protect our users from bad intentions, every text and incoming call is analyzed with our self-built “AI Toxic Text Analyzer” to ensure users integrity and security. Users are also protected with an encrypted public key in Blockchain that makes it possible to remain anonymous. The user owns their own data. Heroes can find all available Looper requests within a 20 km radius, easily visible on a map in the app. Both parties must approve each other for each request, and users can chat with each other or call each other to coordinate completion.
Tell us how the project started:
Bente: It was the beginning of March this year, and I followed the news and read all about Covid-19. My good friend Madhumita Deb and I talked about what we could do, because instead of sitting at home and just taking in everything that happened, I wanted to do something! I wanted to match those in need of help with those who could help. I wanted to use my deep tech skills to make a difference, not just where I live but all over the world. Everyone could benefit from the social platform I decided to build.
That sounds like a very ambitious plan! What were the first steps you took after you’ve decided to build this solution?
Bente: I needed a team and thought where should I look? I had heard before about Call for Code and decided to participate with my idea. IBM provided a Slack channel where I found a large number of people who were also looking for a team. I knew what skills I was looking for, and even though we had never met, they wanted to join and I quickly had a team with me. My team new members turned out to be absolutely amazing: in it for the long haul and everyone believes in using deep tech to do good!
Suneetha Jonnadula, as full stack developer you are one of the team members who responded to Bente’s ask for help. Why did you decide to join?
Suneetha: I wanted to contribute and, in some way, fight against this current pandemic situation. The challenge deals with the Covid-19 pandemic, so it provides a way to tackle the current situation with different technologies. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank our project owner Bente Acking who took initiative and stepped forward to put this idea in to implementation, and our teammates for their best efforts.
So Bente, you had your team ready. How did you decide on the technologies to use?
Bente: I wanted to build it on Red Hat OpenShift as it was open source. None of us had worked with OpenShift before so it was a new experience, but I was used to IBM Cloud from previous projects, and we could start to build the platform with IBM Watson Assistant, The Weather Company, IBM Watson Tone Analyser, IBM Watson Personality Insights, and IBM Cloud Object Storage.
How was it to work together while you are all living at other places in the world?
Bente: We’ve never met in person, so all our meetings were virtual. Below you see a screenshot of a typical meeting. Here we are working on the AI Toxic Text Analyzer from Suneetha’s terminal window. She has worked through her terminal all this time. Also there are power shortages in her neighborhood in India from time to time when it rains, so sometimes she cannot join us as all her batteries run out. This happened to a few other team members during this time.
You are the winning team in Europe, do you have any advice for those who are having a great idea but are not sure how to bring it forward?
Suneetha: Call for Code is a platform that provides great exposure. It can help you in putting your ideas into implementation and to help mankind. So if you don’t have a team, don’t worry at all, you will find or start your team with the help of the Slack channel.
Time to make your dreams come true! How do you see TheHeroLoop in a year?
Bente: I dream that The Hero Loop becomes a movement, and that thousands have used it to get help. That thousands if not millions have found new friends and that businesses, governments and universities are learning from TheHeroLoop to improve communities for their citizens. We all need to help each other through this Covid-19 pandemic. The Hero Loop is where we can make it happen! It even gives the possibility to become “The Local Hero”!