What We’ve Learned

While we did a lot for the project, the project also did a lot for us, and we each grew in different ways because of it.

Jacob

I know that for me, the greatest challenge and learning experience from the project was the leadership aspect itself. While not the first time I’ve had “leadership experience”, it was certainly the first time it came with so much responsibility. The independent nature of the project meant that a professor or teacher wasn’t guiding or organizing it. Because of this, I learned lots of valuable lessons about time management, organization, and responsibility.

I’ve also learned my shortcomings. Coming into college as a freshman this year, I was very energetic and optimistic — and also naive. My goal in the beginning was to get programming experience writing a quiz online from scratch. Over the course of the year, however, I had to learn my limitations and humble myself enough to admit that I didn’t have the skill set to do that, and find another way to achieve the team goals.

Because of this, the project has already been worth it for me and a success in my life.

Kylie

I learned a lot about a wide variety of both domestic and exotic animals. I also was able to gain knowledge on animal dumping and invasive species. I had to learn many different techniques of quiz making as well.

Brooke

Brooke and Chey talk about their experience with the project

I learned a multitude of things while working on this project. Although I learned about the animals in general, this project also helped me understand the pros and cons of each animal as a companion, and really understand why people enjoy certain animals such as snakes or chinchillas as pets. I also learned time management, as working with each animal was extremely time consuming at first, and trying to accomplish that on top of my other schoolwork was a challenge. However, I eventually learned how to balance both and be efficient with my time. I also noticed my leadership skills develop as I delegated certain animals to Chey and myself, and had to motivate both of us at times to overcome our challenges and complete our task.

Cheylyn

In this project I have learned about how to communicate questions, difficulties, and progress more effectively. In past group projects, I failed to communicate questions that I have had or difficulties, and the project does not meet its full potential. In this project, I feel as though I accomplished those goals. This project really helped my interpersonal growth. I also learned a lot about animals. More than once since beginning this project, people have communicated to me problems or questions they have concerning their pets. Even without purpose, I have been able to make effective suggestions tailored to specific pets regarding problems or questions because of this project.

Advertisements

What Makes Our Project Unique?

“Animal articles? A pet matching quiz? Don’t those already exist?”

They do. So you may be wondering why we decided to take on the project we did. There were several reasons for this.

Cohesiveness

Many of these websites, while they do exist, tend to lack one or more of the elements we sought to put into the website. What we sought to do with our site is create a aesthetically pleasing, easy to use, well-researched, and interactive source of information for the user.

Aesthetics/Design

What is very apparent from many websites, whether they are wildlife or pet sites, is that they give a “2002” vibe. By that, we simply mean they don’t look very modern or updated, and often don’t entice users to continue further or return on future occasions. While certainly not the most intrinsically important, people eat with the eyes first, so to speak.

Ease of Use

Another common issue, though certainly not limited to pet websites, is a disjointed or confusing set up to the website. When working on the project, one goal we had in mind was to only complicate the website as much as necessary in order for the user to get the most out of it. Our goal was not to create a website with the most sections, the most complex graphic designs, or any artificial impression of extra effort that didn’t actually benefit the user. We believe this mindset was crucial to the final result, and is part of the reason our website stands out.

Research

Possibly the most important part of the project, the research was a major goal of the project. We sought to be a source people could trust, and truly learn from. This meant countless hours of research done by Brooke and Cheylyn to ensure that our information was accurate. We also wanted to be able to guide people to other helpful sources, so that our website could not only be helpful in itself, but also in what it lead to. Obviously, we are not trying to copy-and-paste every other website’s articles into our website, and there will be information we don’t cover. We aren’t afraid to admit we don’t have all the information on the internet in our articles. Because of this, we aren’t afraid to guide others to it — especially to prevent them from getting misinformation elsewhere.

The quality and quantity of research put into the project makes us confident that our website stands out from many poorly researched, or pop-culture/entertainment sources of information.

Interactivity

What do we mean by interactive? Quite simply, we didn’t just want to throw heaps of information at the user and hope they found the right portion of that information that would actually benefit them. That is where the quiz comes into play. Users are able to take a short quiz and instantly narrow down what pets they are most suited for. This saves substantial amounts of independent research the user would have to do in order to come to a similar conclusion. While all the information on our site is accessible to everyone, regardless of quiz recommendations, the assessment will give users a reliable and smart place to start.

A Cohesiveness That Other Sites Don’t Have

We are certainly not claiming that all other sites lack all of these elements. Rather, we believe most simply lack a couple of the elements that would complete the picture. This is where our website shines. “Pets! Not Regrets” provide a cohesive, consolidated pet site to do much of the work a user now doesn’t have to do.

The Success of the Project

We identified a problem. We found a solution. But how well did that solution work? We are happy to say that the project turned out as well as we’d hoped for. Everything came together, from the research to the design, to create a cohesive and easily usable website for users. We’ve also talked to students here on campus to get their thoughts on the website, and the response was as we had hoped: they believe the website is easy to use and provides information they would use when considering a future pet.

If this project helps even one person understand the challenges and rewards of each pet and makes a smart decision on what pet they want, then I believe we did our job. We also hope to shift ownership/maintenance of the website to Lend-a-Paw (an animal-oriented club here on campus) to keep the project alive even after the competition. We truly believe this project has a bright future and are excited to see where it goes.

The Process

Building a research-based website, we discovered, is a large undertaking. A lot went into this project to make it happen, including many setbacks that forced us to adapt and look at aspects of the project from different perspectives. Each member of the team was crucial for the project’s success.

Brooke

During this project, I covered the research with Chey. Together, we synthesized information on each animal and created a care sheet that highlighted certain aspects of their needs and personality such as diet, enclosure size, compatibility with other pets. Although this may seem like a small part of the project, it was actually quite time consuming. The research for one animal took about an hour, as I had to not only synthesize the information, but check a multitude of other sources to make sure the information that was finalized was accurate. Because it was so time consuming, managing my time to complete the research was a serious struggle, which is why Chey joined our group, so a special thank you to her for that. However, once Chey and I figured out an efficient method that worked for us, the research became quite easy, and honestly even quite fun.

Cheylyn

My participation in this project consisted of research. My participation consisted of researching specific details about animals including climate, enclosure size, common diseases, etc. We also cross- referenced information about each animals in order to find the proper care required for each animal to ensure people take care of their animal of choosing in the best manner. We ensured that we found research that people would like to know such as off- putting characteristics of each animal, time and attention that each animal needs, and how often each animal has to visit the pets. While information about each animal is important, so is the information about the owner’s life may have to adapt to the time and care each animal needs.

Jacob

The first part of the process, for me, was organizing it and making sure we knew what we were doing. This involved substantial amounts of research into building a website, budgeting, and putting together a quiz — the first setback. Initially, one of the goals for the project was to program a quiz into the website that automatically matched users with a suitable list of pets. What I quickly realized, however, was the tremendous undertaking that would be. I quickly realized that learning an entirely new programming language, and making sure I knew it well enough to prevent bugs and ensure it was safe to use was far outside my skill set as a first-year computer science major.

This obstacle was initially a huge source of stress for the team; we didn’t know how the project could go on if the quiz was missing. What we realized was that we needed to change our approach to the project.

Kylie

My primary responsibility, as a psychology major, was the quiz. The quiz on the website was designed to be a rough guide to what pet would be the best for each person based on their lifestyle and personality. This quiz was created using animal psychology, animal lifestyle research, and behavioral psychology.
The quiz was put together using a numerical pathway system that allows for each person to find a pet matching both their lifestyle (Small apartment? Smaller pet) and personality traits such as excitability, personal preference, hobbies, etc.

I was also in charge of finances throughout the year so as to keep track of the money we spent and had left, and what that money went to. The money for this project were primarily used toward purchasing and maintaining the website domain. Some of the money was not used due to setbacks involving time, resources, and technical difficulties.

Why We Did it

At this point, you may be wondering why we decided to take on this task. What motivated us to take the extra time to take part in this competition, and why this specific problem?

Across the nation, an estimated hundreds of thousands of animals are neglected and hoarded every day. Between 6 and 8 million companion animals go into animal shelters each year. Unfortunately, one of the main causes of these tragedies is that owners are unaware of the appropriate care their pet requires, and either neglect them, or end up giving them away.

Jacob

Computer Science Major

For me, there was a great deal of personal experience with the issue that influenced my motivation. Over the last 18 years my family has had dozens of pets, and yet only a couple did we intend to get. The others? They were the result of people owning pets they did not have time for, of were not prepared to take care of. From our parrot, who came from my aunt, to the bearded dragon, who came from a family friend who could no longer take care of it, to our ferret, who was poorly fed and kept in a cramped cage on long trips, to one of our cats that we obtained when the previous owner of our house abandoned it, my family has seen a high amount pet owners who simply were not prepared for the responsibility they had.

Thus, even though I am a computer science major, this project resonated with me due to a problem I had close experience with.

Brooke

Biology Major

I participated in this project because I have a genuine passion for helping animals. I have always loved animals, and this love and passion has inspired me not only to be a vet, but also to help them in any way I can.

Kylie

Psychology Major

I participated in this project in order to learn more about an issue that is becoming a real problem in today’s world. Animal rights are a hot button issue today. I’ve had many pets throughout my life and I want to be able to help other people find the perfect pets for them.

Cheylyn

Political Science Major

My personal reason for participating in this project is to emulate the feeling of belonging. I enjoy working in group projects, I enjoy working and collaborating on projects with other people. The opportunity arose when fellow group member Kylie Chisnell had asked me to participate in this project to conduct research. I took up the opportunity in order to gain learning experience about how to conduct research efficiently, and to learn more about how my communication dynamic works with people on a project I am not familiar with.

What We Did

Above: Homepage of the website

We built a cohesive, easy to use, and well-researched website as a reference for those looking for (or already in possession of) a pet. The website, Pets! Not Regrets, includes a personality quiz for users to narrow down which pets are suitable for them, as well as articles on dozens of animals and references to other credible sources so that users can be well informed before making the important decision of which pet to get.

Status Update

Project Overview

The problem we seek to solve: Our project deals with all of the animals who are bought by eager people who have no idea what they’re actually doing. Sometimes, these pets are discarded when they can’t be returned; if they are domestic, they will end up in a shelter. If they are exotic, they are released back into the wild with no natural survival skills. Other times, the pet or the person will end up getting hurt because of something either of them does wrong.

The Solution: Our team is looking to prevent any harm to both animals and humans. To do this, we are creating a website for people looking to buy pets. There will be all kinds of information about the pet, from average cost, to temperament, to how much exercise they need. A key feature of the website will be a quiz, where those seeking to get a pet can find out the pets they are most suited for.

The Pitch

In the pitch, we described the problem listed above. Our goal with our website, Pets! Not Regrets, is to create a hub of information where pet owners can go to learn about their pet. The key feature of this website will be a quiz that allows the user to narrow down what pets they are most suited for. In order to meet these goals, we asked for and received 350 dollars in the pitch.

Below is the feedback received:

·         They really liked your project, and agree that your plan will help meet your goals.

·         You seemed to have a workable plan for carrying out your solution, but suggested that you rely on documented experts for the information you distribute.

·         They encouraged you to work on exploring the mechanisms of search engine optimization, to help you move to the top of Google search lists.

·         They encouraged you to focus some of your problem solving energy on making this sustainable. They suggested that this would be something that advertisers would be interested in sponsoring, and that this would make the project sustainable over the long run.

Post-Pitch

Since the pitch, we have been working to bring together the project in a few key ways. First of all, two team members have been working on gathering credible research on different animals, so as to make sure the information provided is reliable. Additionally, two team members have been looking into coding for the quiz, so as to actually incorporate it into the website. In terms of the progress still to be done, we need to put the information collected into well-written articles, as well as code the quiz. The quiz is more of a challenge than expected, and so we have reached out to Dr. McGregor in hopes that he can find us a computer science student willing to join the project and aid in the coding. Additionally, while the website has been created, it still has yet to be finished.