Camas High School Sophomore Aiden Bai has a variety of programming and web-related skills under his belt. Over the summer he decided to put these skills to good use and create something that could help people. Since shutdowns kept him primarily at home, he thought this was a perfect way to challenge himself and prevent boredom.
Originally, Bai wanted to create a COVID-19 tracker for Camas, where data gathered from an official source would be displayed conveniently through a web app, so anyone with internet access could see up-to-date statistics in the community. Unfortunately, this was not especially useful because a quick web search instantly provides results for basically any place in the world. He decided that an app made specifically for a single area was redundant and probably not worth the effort. After that trial and error, Bai went back to the drawing board.
After some time, he thought of an even better idea: a platform made for people to help out those in need, a place where food banks, medical workers, and volunteers could communicate with those who needed materials (food, masks, facial covers, etc.). The project took the form of COVID Heroes, a free platform for anyone with internet access, and lasted throughout the summer.
The entire platform was created and maintained by several CHS students, with Bai as the project manager.
He said, “Personally, I learned a lot from it. I learned a lot of web development: front-end, back-end, infrastructure, stuff like that.”
“I wasn’t really good at back-end, so I spent a month just figuring out how to set up a server with Express.js and MongoDB,” Bai added.
Overall, around 200 people and organizations joined the platform. Organizations that used COVID Heroes include the Clark County Food Bank, Camas Science Olympiad, and the Chinese Evangelical Church of Vancouver.
This was Bai’s first time managing a web platform of this scale, so it suffices to say that it was challenging for him.
“I didn’t realize that maintaining a platform was really hard. Generally, maintaining any community requires a substantial amount of marketing, which I didn’t really have any experience with. I basically spent five hours a day just talking to people to help them use it. I think if a big organization took over and had some type of idea like this, it would be much more successful because they have a better base for it,” he said.
The platform was eventually discontinued in August 2020, but the site can still be viewed at https://covidheroes.net/.