“QR Codes to Combat Vaping: A Tech-Savvy Approach for Schools”


I’m tasked with developing a system for students to report vaping incidents in school restrooms. The concept is to have QR codes in the restrooms that, when scanned, trigger an email notification to our receptionist.

My plan is to create a single webpage that receives parameters from the QR code URL, which are then incorporated into the email’s subject and body—for example, using a URL like `www.vapereportwebsite.com/report?location=BoysScienceToiletsCubical1`. This approach requires only one webpage to manage and a unique QR code for each stall.

However, I’m encountering difficulties finding an affordable, or even free, service that allows sending emails directly from a website. Our school’s website doesn’t seem to offer this functionality, and we lack email and phone support services.

Additionally, I aim to implement an anti-spam feature to prevent abuse, such as limiting reports to one per hour.

We have access to Office 365 and G Suite.

I’ve considered using Microsoft Forms and Power Automate, but this would necessitate a separate form for each restroom, which is not ideal for updates and maintenance.

Could you provide any guidance or suggestions, preferably from UK-based companies?

Thank you.”


Since you have access to Office 365 and G Suite, you can use their built-in functionalities to create a reporting system without incurring additional costs. For instance, you can use

Microsoft Power Automate to set up a flow that triggers an email to the receptionist when a QR code is scanned. You can also use Google Forms to create a simple form that students can fill out after scanning the QR code, which then sends an email via Google Scripts


2. Single Webpage for Reporting:

Your idea of having a single webpage that receives parameters from the QR code is efficient for maintenance. You can host this webpage on a platform that supports server-side scripting, like

PHP or Node.js, which can handle the email sending functionality. There are many hosting services that offer free tiers suitable for such tasks, including Heroku, Glitch, or Netlify


3. Anti-Spam Measures:

To prevent abuse of the reporting system, you can implement rate-limiting on the server side. This can be done by storing the timestamps of reports in a database and checking the interval before allowing another report to be sent. Additionally, you could use CAPTCHA verification to ensure that the reports are being submitted by humans.

4. QR Code Generation and Management:

For generating QR codes, there are numerous free online tools that can create QR codes with embedded URLs. You can manage these QR codes through a central database that maps each code to its corresponding location.

5. Privacy and Anonymity:

It’s important to consider the privacy of the students using the reporting system. Ensure that the system is designed to keep the reporter’s identity anonymous to encourage reporting without fear of retribution.

6. UK-Based Solutions:

While I cannot recommend specific UK-based companies, you can look for local web development firms or educational technology providers who might offer bespoke solutions tailored to your needs.

In summary, by leveraging the tools you already have access to and considering free or low-cost web hosting services, you can create a robust and user-friendly system for reporting vaping incidents. Remember to prioritize ease of use, privacy, and security to ensure the system is effective and trusted by the students.

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