Winding Down

My partner and I have made some headway with our program, but it is true that we are very much in the preliminary stages of development. The PowerPoint has helped with guiding the transfer from draft to reality, but the programming aspect of this project is certainly the most challenging. Professor Laskin has been out of town for the past several weeks tending to a family member, something we needed to consider whilst attempting to contact him and establish meeting times.

Although meetings were sporadic and e-mail communication was not very frequent, my partner and I have been able to reach out for some extra materials we felt we needed. This included a copy of the preliminary research Professor Laskin conducted, the basis for our application creation. This would include several equations we required in order to establish a working fitness calculation.

Another aspect we sought out was the disability categories if you will. Each patient who will make use of our product must select a category or degree paralysis. This designation will allow for the program to account for this input information and tailor the fitness result to the patient. For example, someone who is paralyzed just below the waist may be able to exert greater force when conducting the fitness test than someone who is paralyzed just below the ribs.

Professor Laskin, despite his travels has been keeping in contact with my partner concerning these elements, and they have been critical in our development of the application.

Those in healthcare frequently complain of issues concerning patient records. My partner and I have deliberated whether we view our product as a home use program or one that can be used within a greater medical setting. This will dictate how the database of the program will be created. For instance, if one individual is using the app on his/her phone for self-monitoring and improvement, then a large database accessible by others through cloud technology or other servers may not be necessary. Yet if we believe that this app can be applied in a greater clinical setting, then a larger database is required. This step may not seem critical within the grand scheme of development, but in fact it is perhaps the most pivotal decision to make going forward. Establishing the database will dictate the workability of the application as well as determine several menu options that I have already integrated into several flow charts.

Let’s say a caretaker needs to view the results of a fitness test of patient A from three months ago. That data should be accessible to the professional for such cases. On top of that, he/she should be able to conduct such actions for his/her entire clientele. Where does our decision fall in this? If we don’t establish a compatible server, then we limit ourselves to the home-use of this application. It means that only one profile can be created within the application, and only one user will be able to view the history of his/her fitness progression.

As the semester looms and coursework finds its way back into our lives, we will be able to make more time to meet with Professor Laskin and Professor Cassens over the next several weeks to determine the best course of action. The programming aspect of the project is still the largest component to tackle, and we believe that comfort with the language will result in more advancement. This process has made it clear that although we have a design and layout, the usability of it may be determined by the simple decision to either use the application on a large scale, or bring the program to the individual devices of those who seek its services.

Personally, I hope to establish a larger usage for our product. I want it be something that healthcare providers, coaches, and individuals alike can use. But in order to have the greatest spectrum of audiences, it must be able to support just that.

On to the next semester.

Moving Forward

The past couple of weeks have been spent reviewing the necessary steps to take in order to get our app up and running. What is the best layout? What does each slide need to contain in order to flow for the user? In order to better understand the product we are designing, my partner and I have connected with Professor Laskin with our rough draft.

Now, the rough draft design was in my hands. I understood that a flow chart of some sort would be most beneficial in this scenario, but what medium would be most effective? I decided to start up a PowerPoint presentation, as this allowed me to flick through slides in a fashion similar to its presentation on an Android device. The menu would be the first panel the viewer interfaces with, and each button within this menu would have separate maps leading to unique user options. This experience has taught me how to think in a linear fashion, a mind frame that would most closely align with that of the user. Our previous meetings with Professor Laskin and Professor Cassens provided me with a framework to build within, so I ensured that the essential options were included and accounted for (ie. sound preferences, language compatibility, large buttons, timers, patient menus and user information input options).

It was now time to present this rough draft to Professor Laskin. I presented the slides in a fashion similarly to how a user might encounter the application. Any number of user scenarios were presented to Laskin in order to demonstrate the workability of the design. Of course, like any larger endeavor, revisions needed to be made fairly quickly. Some of the layout options needed to be changed, and Professor Laskin noted several aspects that he wished to be included in the next iteration of the presentation. This primarily included slide flow. What panel would come next after pressing this button? What pops up here after this task has been completed? The difficult aspect of working on a computer rather than on the intended device is that it becomes more difficult to convey the true nature of the operations of my design. But that was a minor obstacle that was simply inevitable.

In the meantime my partner considered the design options from a programming point of view. Sometimes ideas on paper, much like any concept, are easier proposed than completed. Not to mention that the coding language was still somewhat foreign. The platform on her laptop did not run smoothly the past several days, so any advancement was simply in the knowledge of how to complete certain tasks if presented with the opportunity. For now, my design would be limited to the PowerPoint. From there, I have already made several improvements and ensured that the final copy was sent to both Laskin and my partner. I’m sure that once the technical aspects of the programming are taken care of, great headway can be made in initiating the first set of panel coding. It does turn out that the program my partner is using is frequently used by application designers worldwide. Information concerning anything from troubleshooting to the creation of text boxes on action buttons could easily be found on YouTube.

I have somewhat lost sight of the end goal as we get bogged down by an overwhelming amount of minute details that need to be taken care of. The task is great, but at times I lose sight of its purpose. Dedication is key, but is certainly something more difficult to come by during the great summer months. Yet I am positive that with some more structure and headway in the realm of coding/programming, we can develop our Beta for UMove.

UMove

Physical Therapy is a field that enables individuals to attain an improved state of being by way of physical activity, manipulation and development. My partner and I have paired up to achieve just that, but for individuals who are wheelchair-bound. Towards the end of the Spring semester, Professor James Laskin from the Physical Therapy Department sought out assistance with the development of a mobile application that would allow wheelchair users to track their fitness enhancement  and maintenance. What demographic? Almost any. Professor Laskin has worked with wheelchair athletes in his colorful past, and noticed a great need for applications we are currently developing.

Wheelchair users are frequently deemed handicapped and severely impaired. Although medical conditions or a prior accident may have caused their current states, it most certainly does not mean that physical fitness should and will suffer. Those capable and inspired enough to pursue a healthy lifestyle can certainly do so, within the realm of their realistic fitness capacity/potential. Those who are so inclined require methods of measurement and comparison in order to observe and track their progress. The purpose of our application is to allow wheelchair users to calculate their fitness level after conducting a standardized track test. The individual will push him/herself around a regulation size court (be it basketball, tennis, volleyball, track, soccer field) to the beat of a metronome for five fully sustained minutes. As the test concludes, a fitness score will be displayed. This score is determined by a combination of the severity of the patients’ disability level as well as the distance covered in the allotted test time.

Initially such a task does seem overwhelming, and initial meetings with Professor Laskin and Computer Science professor Mr. Cassens have proven that the programming involved and considerations that must be dealt with are not simple. First of all, the Android coding language must be mastered. The design must be applicable to a handheld device. Layouts must flow and panels should contain all the vital information necessary to make the product as user-friendly as possible. But the best approach may be to get things down on paper first.

The initial step of development is simple brainstorming, and that is exactly what our team has done. Professor Laskin has provided us with a list of essential requirements that should be found within the application in some form. It was then up to us to determine how best to integrate the elements. So we’ll head to the drawing board soon and determine what we want in and what is out.

We have been given the research that Laskin has conducted several years ago, and the information has helped us realize that the work we are attempting to accomplish will certainly serve our target population well. But it also has given us a framework to work within. It establishes the necessary components we must incorporate within the program, and facilitates our knowledge of the population we serve. The various levels of ‘disability’ are distinctly classified, an area of expertise we would have lacked without Laskin’s contribution and prior initiative.

My partner and I have everything we need and the guidance exists to support us throughout the summer. Our scholarships will be used to purchase coding textbooks and new equipment that can handle the computing power required to run design applications. We look forward to the challenges ahead and the necessary collaboration necessary to tackle such a large task. Our project will be on display (hopefully) in April of 2016 in Tacoma, where we hope our work will be accepted by those who the product is meant to assist.