Encouraging teens to critically think in a safe place

Apoorva M., Mayra V., Nur A., Vee G.

Ponder is an interactive debate chat website that allows students to view our daily philosophical questions. By signing in with their Google accounts, they can then interact with other like-minded users. Ponder is a safe place where teens can express their beliefs and opinions openly with others in order to expand on their debating skills.

According to a workshop done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, adolescents tend to form the majority of their beliefs between the ages of 13 and 17. However, these ideals are heavily shaped by those of parents and fellow peers, when teenagers should be actively focusing on improving and investigating upon what principles they already believe. Even critical thinking is primarily aimed towards standardized testing!

While students are encouraged to express their opinions in schools, many times they remain unheard or subconsciously adapt to opinions of other students and teachers. This is why Ponder creates a safe place where students may creatively explore their own thoughts and those of others. By interacting with other teens of different backgrounds and viewpoints, students might incorporate a more well-rounded process to forming their future ideas and responses.

While we were initially motivated, our group did struggle through a few challenges. Some that we faced during the development of this project included having a fully functional comments box that takes in a user's input and displays all the replies for the question of that day. Picking a method and way to store replies was difficult, as there were many ways to do so but we were not sure which would be the most efficient. It took a great deal of trial and error, and experimentation with many different coding languages, but towards the end we finally decided on using Firebase to store our data. Through working as a group, we were able to figure out our data storage and fix any minor CSS styling concerns in time to complete our assignment.

"This is an amazing new approach to dealing with an issue we've been trying to address for such a long time!"

Apoorva Mahesh is a 17-year old rising senior at Metea Valley High School who just began her journey into the field of computer science. She loves history and English just as much as she does math and science, and wishes that every other student would love exploring complex topics and what-if scenarios, which is why she is so passionate it about this website. She loves to swim, sing Indian classical music, and talk in her free time, and hopes to attend college in California for computer science and film.

Mayra Vazquez is a 16 year old rising senior at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School. After being actively involved in the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) club to help code a web app for her school, she decided to join Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program at Synchrony Financial. Being involved in this program allowed her to help create ‘Ponder’ in hopes of allowing teens to have inspiring and thought provoking discussions. She hopes to help students develop their creativity and enhance their debating skills.

Nur Al-Kodmany is a 16 year old rising junior at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School. Girls Who Code was her first experience with any programming languages and computer science. Because of this great experience, Nur wants to pursue a career in forensic cyber security. In her free time Nur loves to read, run, and journal. Nur loves the outdoors and enjoys going to museums.

Vee Krystal is a 16 year old rising senior at Plainfield East High School. After being actively involved in her mother’s Graphic Design business, the byDesign Network, she joined the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program at Synchrony Financial Chicago. This program helped Vee find her interest in computer science leading to “Ponder”. Vee loves all types of the arts and hopes to attend college for computer science and Law Enforcement.

All of us are extremely passionate about helping students and teenagers just like us think in new ways, which is why we created Ponder. We hope that everyone can see how significant this is to others!

This project was made by Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program students at Synchrony.