Twine App to Connect Students with Campus Clubs, Events


Courtesy of Colton Potter

Twine is a new app created to enhance student life around campus by connecting students to activities and organizations.

Twine, a student-developed social app designed to increase community and student connection, is scheduled to launch this month. The app was initially envisioned prior to the spread of COVID-19, and now its founders hope that Twine will help mitigate social isolation brought on by the pandemic.

Twine won first place at the 2020 LaunchU pitch competition in March, awarding its team of four Oberlin students $15,000 in funding. The personalized mobile app provides a service that connects students of all years to on-campus events, clubs, and organizations, based on interest. When students enter the app they are prompted to answer a survey about their interests and are suggested activities based on an algorithm.

“We felt like there was no good way for students to get access to information about events,” said Chief Project Manager and double degree fourth-year Colton Potter.

Potter began developing the app two years ago, alongside College fourth-year Minh Lam. They were eventually joined by College fourth-year Khang Nguyen and College second-year Osama Abdelrahman. 

Potter and Lam, both Computer Science majors, came up with the idea during Oberlin Entrepreneurship Club’s Startup Weekend in the fall of 2018 and began work on the project for a systems programming class. 

Both students noticed that the current methods for marketing social events and clubs — Oberlin’s online calendar, the club fair, and posters — lacked cohesion and efficiency, leaving new and first-year students particularly overwhelmed.

Abdelrahman explained that his personal experience as a first-year student motivated him to join the Twine team.

“During my first month at Oberlin, I was like, ‘Okay, there’s a lot of stuff going on, there’s a lot of events,’ and I still missed a lot of things,” Abdelrahman said. “It happened a lot of times where I’d see a poster, get out my calendar, and realize that the event already happened two days ago. When that happened, I realized it was a problem.”

Combining their coding, engineering, marketing, and public speaking skills, the foursome created Twine through what Potter called a “learn-as-you-go process.”

“There are no clear roles here,” Lam said. “It’s all over the board. I think that’s the case with all start-ups. You never know what your role entails.”

The team saw their efforts pay off in mid-March when they won the LaunchU competition. They also secured funding for expansion when the pandemic hit and forced them to alter their plans.

According to Lam, the circumstances created by COVID-19 hinder the organic social interactions necessary to the formation of new communities, making it more difficult for first-years to navigate the social framework of college.

“We developed the idea with a problem [in mind] that exists and is very real in normal times, and the pandemic has totally exacerbated that — especially for first-years,” Potter said. “You’re coming to this new place for the first time, and you’re with new people, and you don’t even have a roommate. You can’t hang out with people except in this weird, physically-distanced way where you can’t see half of someone’s face. It’s a stressful and unsettling experience, and it’s very hard to make friends.”

Channeling their entrepreneurial spirit, the group updated the app over the spring and summer to work within a campus restricted by COVID regulations. Students can log in using their existing Obie IDs, create a profile, answer questions about their interests, and begin exploring opportunities such as events and club meetings.

College fourth-year and Student Senator Sun Moon expressed his enthusiasm for the app.

“As an R.A. for first-years, it’s really hard to get to know people, so having a centralized database of what’s going on is really great,” he said.

As word spreads about the tool, Potter is enthusiastic about its potential to aid students. 

“We’re really excited because, on a larger scale, we’re trying to help people make those first steps,” he said. “Especially during this time, this is going to be a game-changer.”

Interested students can find updates on Twine’s launch on their Instagram page. Twine will be available for students to use in the next month.