Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My Experience at PennApps, Fall 2016

Being an engineer at Penn is great for many reasons, but one of my favorite parts of being at Penn is participating in PennApps. PennApps is a bi-annual hackathon, a 48-hour competition in which teams collaborate on programming projects.

At the beginning of the hackathon, my team still hadn’t thought of an idea for our app. One of the suggested topics for the competition was healthcare, so we focused on apps in this category to narrow down our brainstorming. We also took the time to visit each sponsor booth, and one of the sponsors was Nexmo, a communications company that provides a way to send texts and make phone calls using code. This piqued our interest, and ultimately led to the idea for our app.

We decided to build an app for Apple Watch that listens to a user’s pulse to detect cardiac arrest or other life-threatening heart conditions. After the watch detects this, we used the Nexmo code to send texts to emergency contacts and make a call to 911 to receive emergency medical attention. The biggest challenge in building this project was testing and demoing the app because we couldn’t just simulate a cardiac arrest every time we wanted to try out the app. Instead, we changed the Apple Watch code to listen for normal, healthy heartbeats instead of life-threatening conditions, and we tested the app by wearing the watch ourselves.

Building the app was truly a team effort, and our hard work was rewarded when we received a prize for Best Use of the Nexmo API! Each team member received an Amazon Echo as a prize. It was a great experience to work with Nexmo and Apple Watch programming for the first time, and I am excited to participate in PennApps again this semester!

Bethany Davis – CIS, 2017

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