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Smart and Connected Health Apps: A Cross-Disciplinary Effort

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Course Efforts

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Ravi T. Shankar Florida Atlantic University

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Ravi Shankar has a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, and an MBA from Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL. He is currently a senior professor with the Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department at Florida Atlantic University. His current research interests are on K-12 education, engineering learning theories, and education data mining. He has been well funded by the high tech industry over the years. He has 7 US patents, of which 3 have been commercialized by the university. This research work is a collaboration with the Children's Services Council of Broward county in FL.

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Teresa J. Sakraida Florida Atlantic University, Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing

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Teresa J. Sakraida is an Associate Professor in the College of Nursing at the Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL. She holds a B.S. degree in nursing from Goshen College, Indiana and a master’s of science in community health nursing from Indiana Wesleyan University, Indiana and a MS in education from Indiana University. She obtained a PhD in 2002 from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Dr. Sakraida has expertise in public health and health promotion. She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International, the Southern Nursing Research Society, and the Society of Behavioral Medicine. She has presented at national and international conferences that include the Western institute of Nursing, Southern Nursing Research Society, Royal College of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International and the Society of Behavioral Medicine. Her research explores transitions to self-management by persons with type 2 diabetes and kidney disease. She studied a tailored intervention to support self-management of lifestyle and chronic illness. Her scholarship includes technology supportive intervention. Her publications are in the Western Journal of Nursing Research, Nursing Research, Mental Health Nursing, Online Journal of Nursing Informatics, Journal of Nursing Education, and others.

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Francis Xavier McAfee Florida Atlantic University

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Francis X. McAfee, Associate Professor in the School of Communication & Multimedia Studies at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) merges his background as a ceramic sculptor and printmaker with new digital technologies. After graduating with a BFA in Art in 1989 he joined the Florida Center for Electronic Communication (CEC) as a lead artist creating animation for applied research projects. These computer animated films were nationally and internationally screened in New York, Chicago, Hollywood, San Francisco, and Tokyo in industry recognized competitions as the International Video Art Competition, the New York Festivals, and the American Film Institute.

McAfee is also active in web-based virtual reality projects. His research includes digital archaeology of a deteriorating ancient tomb in Sicily to help preserve and visualize its’ characteristics for future study. His collaboration with Florida International University’s International Hurricane Research Center showed how certain roof construction materials may become projectiles during high wind events. For the FAU Center for Environmental Studies’ Sea Level Rise Summit McAfee lead a student team to produce a short animated video showing what might happen to the neighborhood around the Miami Freedom Tower if sea level rises to its full potential impacts. The video was picked up by National Public Radio and other media outlets. In 2007 he helped visualize the research of FAU’s Ocean Engineering using animation for a competition for a State of Florida Center of Excellence. FAU won the completion and has since been named as a national research center, Southeast Regional Marine Renewable Energy Center. Since 2009 he has collaborated with colleagues in Computer Sciences and other colleges to form cross-disciplinary student teams that create software applications for Android mobile devices.

McAfee compliments his professional activities with volunteer service for ACM SIGGRAPH. He served on their executive committee as Director for International Chapters and has organized local Fort Lauderdale chapter events for over 20 years.

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Health care cost has skyrocketed to 17% of the US GDP. Americans are not living longer and happier as a consequence of this stepped up cost. The US government has launched several initiatives to improve health care. This paper addresses a missing link, viz., building an infrastructure to record patient’s health in their homes, where most time is spent. Medical professionals can then track this data to improve patients’ health. This will reduce the number of patients’ visits to hospitals, length of hospital stay, and the stress of a hospital visit. We have developed such mobile health care apps with a cross-disciplinary collaboration that involves students and faculty members in engineering, nursing, and multimedia. This course involved 3 faculty members, one each from engineering, nursing, and multi-media, who taught their concurrent courses in the three disciplines, to a total of 50 students. Eleven students teams were formed with participants from all the three areas. App topics ranged from ‘Motivational Phrasing for Depressive Symptoms’ to ‘Healthy Heart’ to ‘Caring For Others’. During the first half of the semester, we covered material that is team-project relevant, but discipline-specific. Student teams then focused on developing their app. Engineering students focused on functional development and on one of the three healthcare related additions (hardware interfacing via e-health shield to biosensors, augmented reality as an educational tool, or cloud interfacing to electronic medical records). Nursing students provided content and ensured that the app was relevant and useful to the health concern chosen. Arts students ensured that the app was user friendly and pleasing. Faculty members brought together these students for initial introductions, team formation, progress reports, and finall app presentation at semester end. The faculty members scored the teams with a rubric for nine app attributes. Pre-course and post-course surveys were conducted which included 20 questions with focus on multiple learning outcomes. Knowledge gains were assessed on a Likert scale from 1 to 5 where 5 indicated the highest level of self-reported improvement. We found statistically significant knowledge gains in all outcomes that were emphasized in the course set. This project brought together STEM and non-STEM students of both genders in teams, thus reaching a large and diverse community. All our apps are published for free access as Github repositories. The app development process would also be useful to faculty members elsewhere. Such Apps can become the conduit to recruit patients for faculty initiated research studies. Data collected then will be available and current, and bound only by privacy concerns as postulated in the institutional research protocol and as consented to by the patients. This research avenue is all the more important given the rapid advances in epigenetics and their positive impact on personalized medicine. Our approach is derived from two theoretical models with strong emphasis on student involvement in the learning process: active student engagement and project-based learning. Both approaches assume active student participation in learning practices where exchange of ideas, extensive interdisciplinary collaboration, and synergies are essential.

Shankar, R. T., & Sakraida, T. J., & McAfee, F. X. (2017, June), Smart and Connected Health Apps: A Cross-Disciplinary Effort Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28828

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