Students at Rice can have a hard time handling stress but don't feel comfortable talking about it with others which can be unhealthy for both them and their peers. We think having an easier, more convenient system for motivation and support can help students deal with this issue.

What it does

In order to address this problem, we created an easy to use and interconnected stress relief system in which users have a comforting stuffed owl. When hugged, this owl sends encouraging messages to the user and also alerts selected friends and family. We believe this will allow students to better cope with stress throughout the year, since they will be able to both help encourage themselves as well as alert those that care about them that they're stressed without having to openly discuss it, which can often be intimidating.

How we built it

We used a Raspberry Pi 3, a stuffed Owl, Python and Instapush to create this connected stuffed Animal.

Challenges we ran into

We had many challenges involving connecting the Py to a push notification system until we were able to implement the InstaPush notification service. In addition, our SD Card on the Raspberry Pi was corrupted at one point and we had to reinstall the Raspbian Operating System and rewrite our code from the ground up. We also had an issue involving implementing multiple buttons within the system due to our inexperience dealing with Raspberry Pis and its GPIO.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Being able to efficiently produce a solution to a problem that affects many Rice students, even though our team was very small and came in not having experience working with Raspberry Pi or other interfaces that we used. Just being able to know that we took an idea and transformed it into a reality that could potentially improve the lives of stressed students is a source of pride for us.

What we learned

We learned to push through even when nothing seemed to work--when the system crashed and we had to build it all again from the ground up, or when we had to completely switch development plans when our first idea fell through. Beyond that, we learned much more about the use of different systems, such as Raspberry Pi, python, and also mobile app usage/development.

What's next for Owl Alert

In the future, we would like to implement a feature which logs the location and time at which the owl is pressed each time, in order to be able to analyze the times and/or places at which a user is most likely to feel stressed or upset. In this way, we could perhaps improve methods for preventing stress or make stress coping more efficient by predicting when a student is vulnerable. It would also be interesting just to analyze the data and see if there are correlations between time of day or location and stress. Additionally, in the future we would like to make the encouragements sent by Owl Alert more customizable, so that a user could choose the message most likely to cheer them up.

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