Pursuing wellness focus of 'Hacking the Human' conference


ASU students stand next to a research poster while talking to Sparky the Sun Devil mascot.
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Judith Karshmer’s message was simple:

If we don’t take care of ourselves, who will?

“We’ve learned in our focus on health wellness that it’s not somebody doing something for us. It’s us doing it ourselves,” Karshmer, dean of Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, said at the start of the "Hacking the Human: Innovative Approaches to Wellness" conference on Dec. 2 at the Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab in downtown Phoenix.

“What we’re trying to do at ASU is make wellness not a program but a value. We’re trying to do that by saying everybody has wellness practices. Maybe they use sunscreen, maybe they choose to limit their alcohol or marijuana intake. Maybe it’s exercise. Maybe one day a week you don’t eat meat. I often ask people: ‘What’s your wellness habit?’”

Karshmer’s remarks preceded several speakers and panel discussions that looked at wellness through the prisms of innovation, technology, fitness, food and more.

“Wellness cuts through every discipline,” Karshmer said. “It’s something we should talk about and experience every day.”

Mark Naufel, a professor of practice in ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise and director of strategic projects in the Luminosity Lab, told the audience about a Daily Dose app that would help recovering addicts by digitizing the 12-step program used by organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous.

The app, Naufel said, would help recovering addicts find the nearest meetings and include a breathalyzer test that could be taken every morning or night. The information from the test would then be seen by the friends and family members who have been invited to join the addict’s “circle of trust.”

“Now family members can wake up (and) see if the addict is doing his daily tasks,” Naufel said, adding that the goal is to release the app to the public after Jan. 1.

Following the conference, first-year students in the Edson College gathered in the building’s north parking lot to present their solutions to real-world health challenges.

Nursing students share their ideas to improve wellness at Hacking the Human conference

ASU nursing students present their innovative solutions to health issues regarding food, family and finance in the parking lot of the Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab in downtown Phoenix on Dec. 2. 

Among the top posters:

"SOS: A Silent Call For Help"
Brianna Lopez, Tatum Boxley, Elyse Dunham

Almost 20% of all human trafficking victims are children, according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

SOS is a bracelet that would hopefully reduce those numbers.

Dunham said the lightweight, gender-neutral bracelet has three main components:

A tracking device that can be shared with 10 selected followers. A safety button that, if held down for five seconds, would immediately alert local trafficking authorities. A push notification that would be sent to authorities and the 10 selected followers if the bracelet is removed or broken.

“Our purpose basically is to keep people out of the trafficking system in a way that almost outsmarts the traffickers,” Dunham said. “It’s crazy how easy it is for people to get manipulated and put in the trafficking system. With something like this, we want to overcome those extreme manipulative traffickers.”

Three students standing next to poster presentation

From left to right: First-year nursing majors Brianna Lopez, Tatum Boxley and Elyse Denham talk about their "SOS" project. 

"Build-a-Bot"
Ziyan Chen, Taj Whitley, Kyler Morga

Build-a-Bot is a robot that would encourage children to get outside and exercise.

“Childhood obesity affects 20% of children in the U.S.,” Chen said. “That puts children and adolescents at risk for poor health, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and other problems.”

The robot would have an app that parents can customize to match their child’s interests. The child would be able to choose the color of the robot.

“It’s a little buddy they can do exercise with,” Chen said.

Although they didn’t research how Build-a-Bot’s could be funded, Chen said they would like to see the government purchase robots for lower-income families, “as they would do with food stamps.”

Woman talking to people about her poster presentation

First-year nursing major Taj Whitley presents her group's "Build-a-Bot” project. 

"Auditing System for Nurses"
Jerry Verdugo, Dara Ouk

The auditing system would guarantee that nurses are being given scheduled breaks in order to improve their mental health.

“There is a nationwide problem in the U.S. in which nurses don’t receive substantial breaks,” Ouk said. “Because of the lack of breaks, nurses have reported to have high levels of stress and anxiety.”

How would it work? Nurses would enter information such as how much water they’ve drank, what they ate for lunch, their anxiety level, etc., on the auditing system, which would then in turn encourage the nurses to take their mandatory breaks.

“Studies have shown this would improve their quality of life and also improve health care,” Ouk said. “We feel that it’s really important nurses are taking care of themselves. They need to be treated well because they work really hard.”

Two people talking about poster presentation

First-year nursing majors Dara Our (right) and Jerry Verdugo explain their project “Auditing System for Nurses.”

"Check Up"
Sarah Kohler, Christianna Carr, Vanessa Bailon Barrera

Check Up is an app that would provide health care resources for prisoners reentering society.

“Prisoners have a lot of chronic health conditions that have worsened in prison,” Kohler said. “It’s such an overlooked topic these days. Most people don’t think about the fact that these prisoners aren’t getting the health care they need. We wanted a really accessible way to get resources for them.”

Released prisoners would install Check Up on their phone and be able to schedule appointments, be reminded of appointments and, because of chronic conditions prisoners face such as hypertension and diabetes, even have an alert when low insulin levels are detected.

“It’s just going to help overall because it’s given them resources in one place,” Kohler said. “A lot of times, prison inmates don’t have a high literacy in technology. This is a simple way to access everything.”

The 2022 winners were announced at the end of the conference:

First place, $1,000 cash prize

"Break the Cycle: Nurse Burnout" — Aromatherapy patches to relive stress, by Mackenzie Anderson and Kamrielle Wyatt.

Second place, $500 cash prize

"Breast Buddy Box" — New moms received postpartum-specific pamphlets, information on local resources, by Jordan Sornsin, Isabelle Bridgeman, Alexa Medrano and Madalyn Tibbits.

Third place, $250 cash prize

"Nursing Home Care" — Digital care portfolio for nursing home patients, by Brei Bergman, Jatziry Lopez Castro and Gabriela Rosales Gaitan.

Top photo: First-year nursing majors Christianna Carr (left) and Sarah Kohler present their project, “Check Up,” to Sparky after the "Hacking the Human" conference in the parking lot of the Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab in downtown Phoenix on Dec. 2. Students presented their innovative solutions to health issues for an opportunity to win a cash prize. Photos by Samantha Chow/Arizona State University

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