Bachelor tech: the story behind BX+
The 10th of September 2021 will mark the first anniversary of one of the Bachelor's biggest community projects: BX+. Involving a wide range of students in many different areas, and observing an 87% adoption rate, the venture has aimed to facilitate communication and access to course resources during the trying times of the pandemic. As of today, it is mostly known for the BX+ app, currently available on the App Store and Play Store. However, a lot more is currently going on to keep on revolutionising education and social platforms, starting with serving the community of our Bachelor programme. Stick around and learn more about how the project came to be, and where it's headed for the upcoming months!
First, what is BX+ ?
BX+ is a student project developed by BX23 students with the clear objective of centralising the bachelor tools and life so that we don't waste time and we stay tuned for any events. Indeed, in the academic part you can find your schedule, course content, grades, emails, and in the social part you can find chats, Vyb, XConnect and some articles from BX+. The second version of the app has currently been released on both App Store and Play Store. As you will see in the following paragraphs, BX+ will also play an important role in the events organised by l'ORE (the bachelor student body).
We travel back in time to our arrival on campus in September 2020. At the time, restrictions due to the pandemic prevented us from following lectures and taking part in tutorials in person, which meant our introduction to courses and life on campus was mostly done behind a screen. Thankfully, the Bachelor's vast array of online resources already in place made this transition much more convenient, and we were able to work from home without too many hurdles.
However, a few key points stood out:
- Many people did not set up their calendar and emails on their phones, since the process was too inconvenient.
- Websites such as SynapseS and Moodle should have been combined together, and there was no direct link between our schedule and the courses themselves.
- Social life on campus (if there was one) was organised through wildly different channels (Telegram, Facebook, Sigma, ...) and projects such as XConnect were popping up to try to bridge that gap.
- Communication with the coaches and admins was handled through yet other means of communications, and misunderstandings did occasionally occur.
With that in mind, the development of a first version of BX+ began. Though it was very basic, and was created in parallel to following already demanding courses of the first semester, it was our first attempt to bridge SynapseS and Moodle to keep schedules and course material readily accessible in one single app. It was first available on iOS devices, and a group of 12 dedicated students volunteered over the course of several months to provide feedback, and more features were subsequently added (Magnan menu, emails, ...). Following that, the XConnect team joined us to begin exploring social features such as debating meetups and a marketplace, and events such as the very popular MAA102 revision Kahoot a week before finals took place. With that, the project was born.
Development plans and funding rounds
Knowing that the project had potential for a greater reach within the whole campus community, the team set out to apply for the IP Paris student project fund, which was granted to ventures providing extensive plans to benefit the whole institute's student body. It is therefore with the aim to adapt the platform to other schools : ENSTA, ENSAE, the polytechniciens, etc.., that the project eventually received 7,000€ of funding. Since then these funds have been invested in server infrastructure for hosting data on campus, as well as for the development of other services such as Horizon and BXForms. Additional funding (2,000€) was also received from partners for specific integrations, notably for our live streaming services which covered many events during the year (Bachelor rep elections debate, L'ORE campaign live events, etc ...). The team also received some crucial support from Polytechnique's DSI to guarantee the privacy and reliability of our systems on campus, most notably for the deployment of our new server.
The Thrillore campaign
The fast approaching L'ORE campaign during the second semester turned out a turning point for the project, sparking the development of a brand new version of the app available on more platforms. The app featured a unique event page for Thrillore's campaign, including an event calendar to guide people during the week, as well as the popular points system, which rewarded students for taking part in (and winning) events. With every day came a new ranking, which was also combined into a weekly ranking, also available on Thrillore's website. Points were given using a QR code system, and everyone's fever to gain points largely accounted for our large adoption rate, most people downloading the app for that purpose. It is therefore with a widely attended launch event, and exclusive features for L'ORE campaign week that the project successfully set new standards for such events in the bachelor community.
Summer 2021 and beyond
The project's current development has been strongly oriented towards overhauling social features such as the marketplace, committees listing and Vyb: a brand new platform for keeping tabs on everything happening around campus. Moreover, the BX24 integration led some further developments into making information more accessible overall, sparking the development of the Horizon platform. The third version of the app is due for release in early September, and will feature all those improvements, plus Web and Desktop support, better emails handling, direct communication channels with the admin and coaches, integrated chats, student and committee stories, and much more. A project to develop the Bachelor's own currency is also ongoing, to bring all payment platforms into a secure and reliable alternative for all transactions on campus.
How you can contribute
The project's quickly expanding scope leaves plenty of room for everyone to contribute in the aim of developing the Bachelor community. Whether you are skilled in programming, interested in design, passionate about marketing, or if you're simply willing to give advice, help for events, or anything else, really, you will certainly enjoy spending some spare time on the project. Currently, the biggest areas of focus are the following:
- App programming: development in Dart/Flutter for all platforms
- Backend programming: development of our API in Node.js
- UI design: mockups and proofs of concept in Figma
- Content creation: articles in Horizon with the Bachelor Brief
- Community & outside events: organising events and workshops in general
If you are interested, shoot a message to Cedric B or Cyrus P.
To finish off this article, the project has already been a huge source of satisfaction and commitment for many of us. It is with great optimism that we are looking forward to keeping the project alive and striving for many years to come!