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S2020 Problem Statements

Problem Statements S2020
Semester Projects
Dr. R. Urquhart - 05/18/2020
With the COVID-19 Pandemic many grocery stores have had shortages of items and because of
this issue many people have to travel to multiple locations in order to find the item they need.
Although many people do their shopping online I also think it would beneficial to have
digital signs in the front of grocery stores indicating what products are missing such as "toilet
paper" or "bottled water". The items displayed on this board could be updated automatically
throughout the day and increase the efficiency of searching for an item that is not there.
To help this issue further I believe it would be beneficial for each store to additionally have a
page showing all brands and items that are currently out of stock at different locations on their
websites in case someone wants to know the information about a specific brand. If a specific
brand is out of stock then you can track it and you will be automatically updated when that
brand item is back in stock.
Being a college student I am always looking to save money, specifically on clothes! As times
change, thrift shoppes seem to become more and more popular as the "vintage" look from the
90's and 2000's seem to come into our modern day fashion world. Thrifting is no guarantee you
will find what you might be looking for, but what if there was a way to ensure they might have
what you want (in terms of aesthetic, size, and wear). I wonder if all thrift stores were to create
an app that they all simultaneously used and uploaded pictures of their best finds (because thrift
stores have to go through what clothes are given to them they would be able to pick out what
was appealing to whatever demographic was in that area). If every thrift store participated you
would be able to log onto the app and click their specific store and scroll through what they have
and even filter to your specifications. I think by implementing an app like this it would draw
more attention to the store, make people happy, not waste a lot of peoples time if they were
hoping to find something "vintage," and save people money!
We need a way to safely and securely vote from home. This would probably involve an
additional registration step where you are securely identified (probably via social security
number) and then would be given a secure username and password instead of you being able to
choose. That way we can ensure they are hard to guess and prevent vulnerabilities. Then we
could develop a secure website, with extensive infrastructure and firewalls to keep up with the
traffic on the voting day. This would be challenging for those in lower socioeconomic statuses
but could help with those who cannot afford an ID card. This would also lower the number of
people who would need to go to the polling places, which would reduce lines and waiting times.
This would hopefully increase turnout overall.
As a college student on a budget, a problem I run into regularly is buying the appropriate
amount of food for myself and making sure that nothing goes to waste. Though I plan out my
meals before I go grocery shopping, a recipe will inevitably call for an ingredient that I’ll use
once and gets bad. Over time, my refrigerator gets filled with a hodgepodge of ingredients I do
not know what to do with. To eliminate having to spend more money on groceries and reduce
my food waste, I propose the creation of an app that where you input how much time you have
to cook and what ingredients you have in your kitchen, and it would create a recipe tailormade
to use the ingredients you have. The app would take into account how much of an ingredient
you have and would have prompts, such as “Do you have flour?” to formulate your recipe. This
app would help you use the food you already have with the time you have to cook, but it would
also take the guesswork out of having to scale down a recipe to fit your needs. If widely used,
people could eat at home more often, save money, and reduce the amount of food they waste.
As we are currently in amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of contact tracing is
becoming more relevant as we progress forward and plan for future pandemics. Given the
digitized world that we live in today, there are certainly different ways in which contact tracing
can be improved. A digitized form of contact tracing could significantly slow down the
progression of a pandemic. This information system would utilize user input as a way of
collecting data. Whenever an user goes out, their specific destination will be the input, alongside
the time in which they depart. When the user has finished their business at a specific destination,
they will also input the time in which they leave. If a person has contracted a virus, health
officials can pull up their contact history and alert those who are in the same facility as the
infected patient. This would allow health officials to narrow down the potentially infected
individuals and as well as alerting those who are in the facility of the infected individual to
either test for the virus or engage in self quarantine. Given that the early stages of a pandemic is
the most crucial stage in terms of containment, is it imperative that this form of contact tracing
is implemented as early as possible. Though this method will not completely stop a future
pandemic, it could certainly slow down an outbreak and provide researchers with more
information in hopes to effectively contain an outbreak.
As someone who frequently finds herself traveling via long car rides, a problem I tend to face is
getting tired while behind the wheel and feeling like I am wasting time when I have school work
or studying to take care of. Usually, I will listen to music or a podcast, but I need something that
is more interactive. Also changing the song or searching for podcasts can be dangerous in the
middle of a drive. I have also stopped to get coffee, but this adds time to my trips and can be
distracting while driving.
One solution is a voice-activated system within the car that allows for the driver to command for
different activities that require only a voice response and no need to look away from the road or
remove hands from the wheel. This system could offer games such as trivia with different
categories and could also be commanded to play different music or podcasts. There could also
be a “study/work” component of this system where the driver could input information prior to
driving and then the system could ask the driver questions on the material that they need to
study. Another example of how this car system could help the driver be productive is a “notes”
section where the driver could speak to the system and create either a list, such as a to-do list or
shopping list, or a document for more extensive writing. The creation of this system would
allow for a hands-free, interactive, and productive car ride. It could prevent falling asleep and
allow the driver to accomplish small tasks without being distracted from driving.
With active learning being such a prominent teaching mindset, teachers are always looking for
new ways to further engage their students. The large lecture sizes at UNC, and at many other
universities, make it difficult for students to speak in class, as a microphone has to be handed to
them in order for them to be heard. A solution to this would be an app that allows students to
speak into their phone mic and have their answer or question play on the speakers to the whole
class. The app would allow teachers to see who has their hand raised and select the student they
want to speak.
Ever since social distancing has become the norm, becoming “bored” has come along with it.
With the cancellation of in-person internships, vacations, and large hangouts, many young
people, including myself, have often found themselves in a slump. While it is completely
understandable to feel offbeat during this hectic time, I am still trying to make the most of this
situation. I personally have found myself craving two things - 1) social interaction 2)
productivity and structure. To combat this, I propose a new social media app - Bored Buddy
(title in progress)! The main purpose of this is to create a support network full of enthusiastic
people willing to learn new things during this time of uncertainty and quarantine. There could
be three main functions - to connect and meet people with similar interests and goals, to
host livestreams where users can teach skills/share advice, and to browse a list of skills to
learn! For example, if you wanted to learn a language, start a new book, or begin a workout
routine, you could use the platform to find others who plan to do the same thing. By connecting
with these people it will be easier to stay motivated, and make new friends in the process! I also
imagine there to be a calendar portion so you can plan out meetings and milestones to help each
other stay on track! It's a way for people to share and indulge in what they are passionate about
while also exploring new things. That way, even if your summer isn’t exactly what you planned
it to be, you can still try to get something worthwhile out of it.
Over the past few decades, humans have dramatically increased their carbon footprint on the Earth and it is no secret that the
majority of their admissions – not just their mode of transportation on a daily basis – come from their household emissions and
energy usage. One of the biggest issues that I notice today, even in my own household, is the amount of energy and water used
that is unnecessary and instead should be reduced to definitive time stamps and/or set quantities. As household appliances
continue to become smarter and more integrated, management and navigation of these appliances have become easier but energy
emission hasn’t slowed down. I believe a solution for this excess emission will rely on a system that essentially runs through a
checklist and utilizes sensory technology for unused appliances.
Everyone’s carbon footprint is dependent upon their location, habits, and personal choices. However, by integrating an app or
software system into a household could solve this issue – or at least provide an easier aid for energy management – without
having to change around daily routines or such habits all by much. This app could be in control of almost every appliance, from
your coffee maker and refrigerator to your thermostat and electrical outlets. The idea of this software would be to save as much
energy as possible by detecting household appliances – or any sort of material that uses power or is plugged in - that aren’t being
used at the moment, turn it off, and alert the homeowner with the amount power consumption. One could set time tables for
certain lights to be on or off at certain periods of time and at certain regions of the house. A homeowner could reduce the amount
of energy used in a thermostat by controlling the temperature remotely to time when he/she returns home or when they depart.
The HVAC system could also manage in a seasonal or regional way, such that annual temperatures or climates could help
determine the most energy-efficient way to set temperatures. The software may be able to take in sensory inputs on the amount of
“leaked air” is entering the house, find its source, and alert the homeowner to reduce excess energy consumption by the HVAC
systems. The household water supply could be also be tracked via this app by setting certain limited quantities on a daily, weekly,
or monthly rate and turn it off automatically once this limit is exceeded.
An important incentive to go along with all of these potential improvements would be the easy management of these appliances
and the cost benefits. Not only would reducing your carbon footprint improve the overall well-being, but also save money that
you otherwise wouldn’t take the time to or know how to save effectively. Changing and transforming habits of people in a world
where structure and routine is so important to them can be very difficult because of the lack of commitment and time put into it.
This kind of software wouldn’t have to do that – by simply linking your household energy and power systems to your phone an
emergence of easier access and management can ultimately create an environment of natural habitual change towards a greener
The current staffing process EATS2SEATS utilizes consists of me, individually, reaching out to
hundreds of NPO groups seeing if they may need a fundraising opportunity. This takes several
hours of research, and there is not one location to access all the past Nonprofit groups we have
worked with. Once a group is interested, I have to manually input their information (name,
contacts, sign volunteer wavers, etc.) and this process takes hours and even days to complete if
the other source is not efficiently communicating. The entire sign up and scheduling process
makes the NPOs experience harder due to their reliance on me to communicate all necessary
steps. Issues arose regarding forgetting waivers, confusing report times, and other
misinformation due to the fact the process relies on person to person communication. A simple
fix to this problem would be automating the sign up process with a website, or location that
allows the non profit group to sign up and input their information without my involvement. This
platform could also easily include a submission for waivers signed, links to payment preference,
and a quiz or outline of rules/expectations so confusion and lack of clarity is addressed. I
imagine this platform as a combination of SignUpGenius (https://www.signupgenius.com/),
excel, Venmo, and Canvas where all information inputed by the nonprofit group can be
translated into a stored database I can use for future staffing and allows a better way to track the
groups that work through EATS2SEATS to fundraise.
An issue I have encountered in college, but especially during times of the pandemic, are
knowing where my eligibility stands when it comes to financial benefits. For students, especially
those who are first-generation, parents/guardians usually do not play as large of a role in
applying for things such as financial aid. It seems that there are a large group of students who
are not fully educated on their benefits and resources when it comes financial assistance. For
example, during this pandemic students may not know if they qualified for the stimulus check or
could file for unemployment. Government websites can be overwhelming so an information
system could simplify all of it, where questions can be provided to the student to see if they can
file for unemployment. At most, basic tax and income information would be needed. This
system would help students process their financial information and to determine their eligibility
for any sort of aid. If qualified, the student will be redirected to an official site where the
application is located. This system is meant to improve efficiency, where students can check for
eligibility before applying and waiting for approval/rejection.
A problem that I have recently encountered was filing unemployment for my parents who
recently got laid off because of COVID-19. After looking at many forums online, several people
are having the same problems of applying for benefits through the unemployment website.
There are not many employees at the unemployment offices and their website constantly crashes
as there are millions of people in the country who are trying to apply for these benefits. In North
Carolina unemployment claims have reached a million applicants and judging from where
things are going, I believe that number is going to grow more rapidly. A short-staffed and
unstable website that keeps crashing is going to create havoc for people who are already
devasted by losing a job. I propose that we create a way for applicants to reach unemployment
employees easily. The only available help is a phone number that millions of people call
regularly to file or for an update. This makes it very hard for individuals trying to file for
unemployment to reach help. I propose that there should be a chat system available with real
employees who can help. In addition, they should create an email system in which applicants
send emails regarding their claims. For this, unemployment agencies may need to add more
employees which can work virtually from home to help others. To alleviate some of these issues
they could hire some people filing for unemployment that matches their criteria. It would aid in
employment and also help the process of applying for unemployment benefits.
Class registration has been a stressful experience for me since I have been a student at UNC, as I
am sure it is for students at many other schools. There are so many moving parts that we, as
students, have to account for when figuring out our upcoming schedules, not to mention the
stress of actually being able to enroll in the classes once our assigned registration time comes
around. To solve this, an app or addition to ConnectCarolina could be implemented where
additional information about courses and professors are easily presented to students. This app or
page on ConnectCarolina could include previous student evaluations of the course, previous
syllabi, grading scales, class descriptions and more. With this, students could view all available
information about a course in one spot, rather than having to research their classes using
multiple external sites, like the UNC course catalog, Rate My Professors, Grade Today and
During times of quarantine, being unable to eat inside restaurants, people (especially students
who can’t return home) would depend more on food deliveries. But food deliveries cost a lot
more than dining in and a dependable waiting time is not guaranteed. I knew a restaurant
gathering food orders from customers nearby and delivering them to certain stops all at once in
a daily routine where customers could come and take their orders. This is a potentially effective
way but the orders are only taken from a private group chat and the orders are delivered by
restaurant staff. I believe this could be solved by designing a platform that incorporates all the
restaurant information, including their menu, delivery stops, and time tables. Customers could
order on that platform and a specialized driver would deliver all the orders according to the
stops and time tables. This would require fewer delivery fees and make the delivery time more
Grocery stores are an essen,al business for all members of society. During this current
pandemic, with fewer restaurants open and more people cooking at home, they are
experiencing an increase in demand. With this rise in demand, grocery stores across the
country are as crowded/busy as ever. This over-crowdedness creates two major problems: 1) As
more people shop for groceries, the ,me it takes to shop and wait in checkout lines increases;
2) More individuals in the store at the same ,me increases the chance of the coronavirus
One solu,on to minimizing large crowds (and thus wait ,mes and exposure) in grocery stores
would be to create an informa,on system-based app that tells consumers exactly how busy
each grocery store is (in their surrounding area). This level of busyness would be determined by
comparing the number of people in the store to its maximum occupancy. To constantly update
the number of people in each store, all grocery stores would need to place sensors in their
entrances and exits.
Currently, Google will tell you the popular ,mes for each grocery store, but not the exact level
of busyness. Furthermore, one might say that grocery delivery services already exist, which
completely eliminate in-store wait ,mes and chances of exposure. However, these delivery
services are not available to everyone because added delivery fees make it less affordable. And,
many people living in non-urban areas do not have access to grocery delivery services.
This informa,on system-based app would be especially beneficial, and useful aRer the
pandemic, for older people and immuno-compromised individuals who are more at risk when
exposed to contagious diseases.
One problem that I found when I first came to UNC was getting involved with clubs. There are
so many clubs available, which leads students to believe that they can join anything. This can be
stressful and oftentimes people will join too many. This can be overwhelming, but is kind of the
only way to understand if you will like it or not. There is obviously FallFest to help you learn
about clubs, but there are hundreds of tables set up, so you can not get around to every single
one. My favorite club at UNC has been one that I did not even know existed until sophomore
One solution to this problem would be to create a software or app that has an entry quiz/poll.
This poll would have the student provide information about their interests, the amount of time
they are willing to devote per week, and if they are interested in service organizations, sports
organizations, professional organizations, or any combination of those three. This information
could be taken in and return a smaller list of clubs that would be viable for this student. I believe
this would have been something that would really help me as a Freshman because of the large
amount of clubs and the overwhelming pressure to "get involved". Narrowing down the list
could allow me to try out a select few and determine which is best for me.