The Nicholas Recreation Center is home to 30,000 square feet of fitness space, eight courts, five studios and an Olympic size pool. But while the facility continues to operate at 25% capacity due to COVID-19, these spaces can fill up fast, resulting in long lines and even longer wait times.
Ethan Lim, a junior majoring in computer engineering and computer science, set to work to create a practical solution to this impractical situation.
“I would always check to see if the Nick had spots open at times I wanted to work out,” Lim said. “But it was always at 100% so it became annoying to constantly check its usage only to see it at 100%.”
Inspired to improve students’ gym-going experience, Lim created the Twitter bot @IstheNickFull to automate the process. Every 25 minutes, the bot tweets whether or not the Nick is full and the current occupancy rate. Users can also mention the bot with the hashtag “full” to get a live response from @IstheNickFull.
If RecWell’s live usage tracker goes down, the bot will then make estimations on the occupancy based on prior data collected.
“I had been messing around with the Twitter API and Python web scraping at the time, and [I] thought those two in combination would be a great way to automate the process of checking and pushing updates on the Nick’s usage,” Lim stated.
While Lim has experience in mobile and web app development, @IstheNickFull is the first bot he’s ever deployed. So far, the launch has been a success. The bot has already accrued over 130 followers despite only being up-and-running since last Tuesday.
“The amount of followers the bot accumulated in such a short span of time was unprecedented, and way more than I expected. I'm just glad that people actually find it useful,” Lim said.
Currently, Lim is looking to update the bot’s features by releasing a total summary of average attendance by time and day of the week. Until then, he recommends Thursdays as the best day to hit the gym.
“Eventually the bot will give recommendations on when to go based on the data it collects,” Lim explained. “Right now, I’m just sorting out making the data persistent. So stay tuned!”