As a parent, I struggle with wanting my kids to have opportunities to learn about helping the environment and their community. It can feel like such a big space, that sometimes we do nothing at all. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can start small. We can start by getting our kids outside, noticing things in their environment, noticing people around them, and then giving them some tools to make a small impact, that could in time inspire a larger one.

That was my goal with building this Alexa skill. I wanted to build something that would energize and make sure kids really would see their environment, their community, as well as think about their own physical and mental health needs.

What it does

Kids start off at the barnacle level and are given a variety of missions to complete. These missions in some cases directly help the environment, the community, or the kiddo, such as picking up trash, talking to someone new at school, or trying new vegetables. But there are also missions that are more about building awareness and instilling joy in the small things around us such as watching a spider build a web or finding a tree to be a friend. As kids complete missions, they upgrade to other animals levels and have an option to skip missions they don’t want to do. There are a total of 30 different missions they can complete over time.

How I built it

I built it using javascript and node.js. I’m hosting my code with AWS Lambda, using AWS DynamoDB for persisting which level the kiddo is currently at as well as their mission queue (to capture skipped ones).

Challenges I ran into

ASK-SDK, persistence and testing. This was my first skill using the ask-sdk vs. the alexa-sdk, and it actually went pretty smoothly, just different from what I was used to. Also, I’ve never built a skill before that uses DynamoDB. I wanted to have a local test environment, so it was a bit challenging to get persistence set up locally to work with the local version of my skill. But alas, with all struggles (or at least some struggles), I was very excited when everything did start working and may have let out a couple ’WOO HOO’s.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

See above. Getting persistence working at all as well as locally was a big accomplishment. Also, I wasn’t sure I was going to have time to finish this skill for the hackathon deadline, so I’m proud of that too.

What I learned

I learned about the new sdk, working with dynamo, and that alexa does not say ‘go go go!’ very smoothly. It comes out more like a rushed gogogogogo.

What's next for Green Kids

Well - we’ll see how this launch goes (fingers crossed). I’d love to add in more missions to this skill, and if it seems like the model works - have some ideas for other skills that could use this same model but with different content that has a societal impact.

Thanks for reading. :)

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