Fiery dragons and social entrepreneurs tackle asthma

Fiery dragons and social entrepreneurs tackle asthma

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Kodu Cup grand prize winner Hannah Wyman, 10, meets with winning Imagine Cup team, Team Dragon, at the Student Showcase event at Lincoln Center on July 13, 2011.

If you ever get the chance to meet the young Hannah Wyman of Leominster, Massachusetts, you’ll be struck by her shining upbeat personality and her big smile. What you would also quickly realize is that this ten year old is wise beyond her years.  

I had the opportunity to meet Hannah at last month’s Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in New York City where she was attending the global event as part of her grand prize for winning Microsoft’s Kodu Cup, a video game development competition launched earlier this year.  

 

The Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals is the culmination of a year long competition where over 300,000 students from every corner of the world compete to use technology to solve some of the world’s toughest problems. The 400 top students gathered in New York to compete for the top awards and as you can imagine the event has an incredible atmosphere.  But where many people might be distracted by the noise, the color or the bright lights, not to mention the game stations, or the site of popular actress Eva Longoria (pictured left Eva Longoria-Photo by Michael Simon) walking through the halls, Hannah was focused on on learning more about one team in particular that had developed an engaging game with the purpose of encouraging children to better manage their asthma- Team Dragon from Rice University, Texas.

“I have asthma,” Hannah told me “so I am excited to learn about Team Dragon’s project.” Hannah’s mom, Amy Wyman was also intrigued to learn about the asthma focused game; “Hannah often needs to visit her doctor multiple times a week to manage her asthma.”

Asthma is the most common chronic illness in children. According to a 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 7.1 million children in the United States – or 9.6% of all kids - suffer from asthma.  

As Hannah, her mom and I approached Team Dragon at the Imagine Cup showcase exhibition, the team shared the workings of their game to the assembled audience with Hannah front and center, listening closely.  As part of their project, the team discovered that the most important aspect of asthma treatment is daily measurement of lung capacity.  However, unfortunately, daily readings can become tiresome for young children, so only about 50 percent maintain this routine.

Team Dragon created this mobile and gaming solution to make daily asthma testing feel less like a chore and more like an entertaining virtual adventure, thereby improving the chances that children will track their lung function daily.  Integrated into the game is the world’s first open-source spirometer, a device to monitor lung capacity, which allows children to play as Azmo the Dragon, destroying castles with fiery breath by blowing into the spirometer.  The game takes a baseline of the user’s lung function and tracks it over time, making it easier to tell when an asthma attack could be impending.  Through regular monitoring, it’s easier to avoid a scary experience. Team Dragon took home a third place award in mobile game design for their mobile video game, Azmo the Dragon.

Check out Hannah’s visit with Team Dragon:

Hannah is a shining example of the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education and how kids have the ability to not just play games, but to create them for a purpose. Maybe one day we will see Hannah compete in the Imagine Cup and perhaps she’ll grow up to become a  social entrepreneur helping the global population with her innovative ideas.

So what do you think? Should we cultivate more student social entrepreneurs? Let us know what you think in the comments or show your support by tweeting or posting to your Facebook or LinkedIn accounts.

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