Student-developed app seeks to create community at CPP

By Aaron Coloma, March 26, 2024

Third-year communication student Anaiya Mcknight-Gonzalez entered her first year at Cal Poly Pomona with a problem similar to many students at commuter schools. With an online orientation and a student population which rushes off campus to beat traffic in the surrounding area, her options for meeting people were limited.

“Having to do orientation online took away from meeting people in my year and my major,” said Mcknight-Gonzalez. “With it being a commuter school, people being more reserved, keeping to themselves make it hard to get to know people outside of your classes.”

Computer science student Eric Yo took the experiences of many students like Mcknight-Gonzalez as inspiration when developing a new social networking app exclusively for CPP called PolyPals. While the app started as a part of a mobile app development project in fall 2023, Yo saw an opportunity to expand the social culture at CPP and continued development of the app over winter break.

“Coming from the fact that we’re a commuter school, students like to go to class then go home,” said Yo. “We’re not as social of a school as USC or UCLA, there’s a majority of students who could find it difficult to make friends. I just thought building this app would be something our school could have to connect with people you might have never seen in school.”

PolyPals is an app which aims to connect students at CPP and create a social community at a school which sees 62% of first-time freshmen and 84% of undergraduates commute. On the app, students create a profile with a picture of themselves and list their name, major, year and a brief bio. Through these profiles, students can choose to connect with each other based on their hobbies or interests. Once connected with other students, users can pin locations on a map of the school to announce an activity or event to the entire community, people they’re connected with or a personalized list of favorite connections.

Yo quickly added users’ locations aren’t constantly broadcasted to each other, and as long as no personal information is released by the user, their privacy isn’t in danger. He also stated a CPP email is required to sign up, and that he would personally regulate controversial posts on the platform.

Computer science student Michael Truong thinks PolyPals has potential to open up new opportunities for newcomers to CPP, providing them an obtainable platform to meet peers.

The PolyPals discord keeps users up to date on the latest updates and announcements regarding the app. | Alexander Novoa

“Freshmen don’t really know anyone their first year, so I think it’d be really helpful for them to meet other people who share the same hobbies,” said Truong. “It could really start the development of their own friend groups here.”

Mcknight-Gonzalez shared Truong’s viewpoint and stressed the importance of making and maintaining connections in college.

“Getting to directly connect with students, meet them and build those relationships that are needed for your four years at college would definitely be helpful,” said Mcknight-Gonzalez.

Yo explained his main focus at the moment was on expanding the app to receive more feedback for improvement. He continued to say his app would only improve in quality when more students sign up once he officially releases PolyPals in the coming weeks.

“There’s still more updates to come, a lot more updates,” said Yo. “The next challenge is getting users to use the app. The more users, the better the app will be.”

Yo discussed his optimism in potential partnerships with campus organizations and clubs, highlighting the opportunity to raise awareness about events and meetings at CPP to further improve campus culture.

Although the app is only just launching, PolyPals is already showing its utility among students who want to coordinate meetups with their friends.

“It’s really easy to navigate,” said Truong. “It’s a nice way to tell my friends where to hang out, to find an easy meetup spot because you can just pin it on the map and put a time.”

The app will be free for students, and available on the app store upon its official release.

Interested students can find an installation tutorial for the Beta in the PolyPals official discord, linked on the PolyPals Instagram page, along with updates and other information.

Feature image courtesy of Alexander Novoa 

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