HealthHero app helps kids learn and get healthier in 3 easy steps

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Red Arrow contributes to Open Source software development

Five months and countless volunteer hours and pizza deliveries later, a pilot version of HealthHero was launched Feb. 9. The web app helps teachers run experiments with students to enhance their awareness of healthy decisions while promoting critical-thinking skills. The Tournavation winner brought Milwaukee volunteers together to apply technology to improve health in our community. Here’s a look at how Red Arrow contributed to building an Open Source technology solution and what it means to the developer community at large.

Agile meets Open Source

As a crowd-sourced project, Red Arrow’s Research Lab team took a technical and facilitation lead to bring the diverse group of volunteers together, doing what they do best: fine-tuning the project’s focus through research, exploring useful technology tools and acting as facilitators to coordinate the build process. 

To get the project rolling, “We approached this similarly to how we work with our clients, defining the scope, organizing the volunteers and building a framework for the development process,” said Michael Gentili, a Software Engineer on Red Arrow’s Research Lab team. 

To refine the original problem statement for HealthHero, which had a STEM focus, Red Arrow User Experience Director Christina Balda led the research strategy and execution efforts to uncover both students’ health and classroom needs. Balda and Gentili, along with Red Arrow’s Heidi Barrette and community volunteer Kerri Shields, conducted field research and shared their findings with the volunteer group to shape the tool’s usability, design and feature set. “At our Wednesday night meetings, we’d share what we learned with the volunteers to fuel our ideation and working sessions, which were highly collaborative,” said Balda.

Building an Open Source solution also enabled Red Arrow to research communication and code management tools not typically used in Red Arrow’s agile development process. “By experimenting with a new toolset during our collaboration with the development community we were able to cross-pollinate what we learned and apply that to our own agile development process,” said Brian Zielinski, Red Arrow Research Lab vice president.

Benefits today, benefits tomorrow

With the HealthHero tool in pilot phase, control group findings and observations from the classroom will be wrapped into a release in March for broader use in Milwaukee-area schools and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. According to Aaron Krueger, director of community engagement at Red Arrow, the Marquette University’s Democracy Lab will act as a steward in driving new health-related uses for the classroom tool, with continued support from Red Arrow and Dohmen.

While the HealthHero pilot version is complete, building on an Open Source platform means the public-domain code is available for use by the development community, free of charge. “It’s rewarding to know that the code base lives on for other developers to build upon. We talk about being the change you want to see in the world, and as volunteer projects go, it doesn’t get much better than this,” said Gentili.

A round of applause to Red Arrow volunteers

Life is busy, but the following Red Arrow staffers stepped up and volunteered their time and expertise to bring the HealthHero app to life: Christina Balda, Heidi Barrette, Lynn Domaszek, Michael Gentili, Melissa Kraner, Tom Mahle, Colin Nickeson, Leslie Perkins, Trish Polyak, Alex Quail, Chris Williams, Chris Zeitler and Brian Zielinski.

Our goal to improve the community in which we live thrives through ongoing support. Want to get involved? Reach out to our Director of Community Engagement Aaron Krueger at akrueger@readarrowlabs.com or visit our Events page.