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IXD students in PHA Hackathon


First year students Amy Wu, Effy Zhang, and Michie Cao recently  took part in the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) Hackathon where they prototyped and built working solutions focus on childhood obesity. 

The graduate students summarize the event: 

Childhood obesity is a preventable epidemic that is currently affecting more than a third of today’s children in the United States, regardless of race, ethnicity, family income or locale. Driven largely by unhealthy diets and eating patterns and lack of physical activity, it puts children at risk of serious, life-threatening health conditions in the future and negatively affects their performance in school.Fortunately, there are many things that can be done to reverse this trend and for the last three years, thePartnership for a Healthier America (PHA) has been devoted to working with the private sector to help address this crisis. This past month, they hosted a Hackathon in Washington, DC in collaboration withThe Feast, inviting designers, developers, strategists and high school students from the Academy For Software Engineering in New York City to help find tangible, creative solutions to end childhood obesity.The two challenges at hand were (1) Helping teachers empower students to make healthy choices about the food they consume, whether at home or at school (2) Creating an information avenue that shows families the healthy food options and physical activity opportunities available to them locally.Over the course of two days, on March 8 & 9, we hacked away at childhood obesity. We  took on the task of how to make healthy choices the easy choice for families and children at school. There were two teams, schools and home, which each had 3 groups of 4 to 6 people. There were speakers and mentors coming around to the individual groups during the weekend Hackathon. Judging was based on 4 criteria: accessibility, innovation, impact value and user.The IxDers that went down to DC consisted of Michie Cao, Effy Zhang, and Amy Wu. We were placed on three separate groups. Independently, each of our teams came up with a website as the platform of choice because the key insights were a) students are not allowed to bring their cell phone to school b) not everyone has a smartphone and c) some people have limited access to a computer.Teams had 24-hours to prototype their ideas and presented to a board of nutritionists, teachers, PHA stakeholders and White House officials. The two winning teams presented their idea a week later at The Building a Healthier Future Summit, during which businesses, industry leaders, non-profits, academic and government counterparts, and First Lady Michelle Obama attended to discuss their achievements thus far and further solutions for the paramount issue.  Amy’s focus was a family orientated responsive website that helps manage SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) food budgets:  A user would create a family profile, which includes the members within the family, and their food preferences, known allergies, and based upon these preferences recipes are generated. The recipes list could be further paired down through a filtering system, for example, depending on what type of cuisine they wished to cook for a particular meal. After selecting a recipe or recipes, a shopping list is populated for easy on the go use. All items on the shopping list are SNAP approved items.Effy’s team turned nutrition into a mobile-friendly game: Classes form teams within a school and compete to have the highest number of points, points were gained by making healthy food choices.  It also works for schools competing against other schools. Winners can win prizes, such as non-food rewards, like movie tickets.Audience: Grade 6~8Background: School Day = ⅔ of a middle schooler’s nutrition, middle school is also when kids are starting to make independent choices about food and when kids are the most susceptible to behavior change.Key insights: 1. School children want to collect Pokemon Cards.2. Have a great pride in their class.Description:Students play this game as a team. They win point through making healthy food choices or lose points by eating rubbish food. More point they got, higher level character they have the class. They can check the class or personal performance online by week or month. Students can chat with other team members, share advice, “brag” and motivate others. They can also rate meals and provide feedback to cafeteria support staff; the website can make a recommendation to students based on other team members’ ratings of school meals or food choices. All the data been collected directly from school’s cafeteria when students check out. Empowering teachers to help students make healthier food choices was the goal of Michie’s group:Inspired by an elementary school teacher, who started an Iron Chef-like challenge within her school to teach her students about cooking skills and healthy eating, we decided to make an online video platform called Applesauce that could facilitate such collaborative video making in schools for students and also allow parents, local vendors and the greater community get involved either by donating the cooking ingredients or commenting and voting on their favorite videos.   This idea came from insights we had gained through interviews with teachers, community organizers and students including:-Kids like to learn by doing-Kids appreciate validation from their peers-Schools preferred working with local food vendors (even if they were unable to, for reasons of limited resource or time)Our hope was that this platform would not only be a fun way for students to learn about cooking and healthy eating, but also serve as a piece of curriculum for teachers and a food resource for parents.   Provided with a Resource Starter Pack that outlines a sample program for teachers to follow, teachers would be able to incorporate these video activities into their curriculum and better engage their students.   Driven by the ability to get new “badges” and elevate to new chef “levels”, students would be encouraged to both be their own content creators and learn important life skills like cooking.  Lastly, parents would be able to refer to this website for new cooking recipes that their kids are sure to like.  

Read about their experiences in detail. Follow Amy, Effy and Michie

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