Imagine going five months without having to pay for food. Sounds like a dream come true for most on a typical student budget. Greg Woloschyn, a computer science major from Carnegie Mellon University, made it happen and now heís sharing his tricks with a program he wrote for his new website, Food-Bot.
The Food-bot website currently lists free food events at 12 universities and is slowly expanding to other schools. (You can put in a request to get your school added here.)
Each school with a page on Food-bot has a main page that lists upcoming free food events in calendar format. There are one of two ways free food events get placed on the site: student groups can post event information manually or the Food-bot program searches upcoming events at the school, extracts free food event information, and posts it on the website.
Food-bot lists upcoming free food events on the calendar
How it Started
When Greg was first searching for free food events he created a Gmail account and subscribed to several thousand mailing lists on campus. Using email filters, he was able to delete every email that didnít contain a food-related word. The inbox was then left with emails that potentially contained events providing free food. This idea became the basis for the making of Food-bot.
Being a computer science major he knew there had to be an easier way. By applying complicated formulas he created a program that scans through all incoming emails, determines the probability of the document belonging to a particular category (free food or non-free food), and places each event classified as free food into a database that is displayed on the Food-bot website.
The program assigns ratings to each event listing on the level of food quality (steak, Jimmy Johnís, and Chipotle get a 10), time commitment, and awkwardness for those who may attend. (If the event is an ethnic or religious meet up, it could be more awkward to come just for the food.)
While he realizes Food-bot isnít completely perfect at finding free food on campus, it has helped students at 12 colleges find free food.
Food-bot currently lists free food events for the following colleges:
The free food site has been getting some recognition. It won Carnegie Mellonís Smiley Award back in March, which recognizes the best student development in technology that helps communication among people.