Landing page for the skill


Skill source code on Github



Having recently begun using birth control pills, I discovered that I hadn't received much specific education on how pills work and how to navigate all my questions around them, like missing pills, emergency contraception, and switching timezones. I have an Echo Dot and greatly enjoy using it - it is a part of my daily routine and I love to explore skills on it. Women, non-binary people, and all those who choose to or have to use birth control pills should have a quick and accessible resource to answer their questions the moment they have them. Although this skill cannot and should not replace the opinions of healthcare professionals, it offers those with questions and those who are stressed a quick and easily accessible resource to get started!

What it does

The skill is built to detect various forms of questions and respond with thorough and factually correct answers sourced from Planned Parenthood. It answers questions on types of pills available, what to do when a pill is skipped, how to delay periods, whether pills protect against STIs, how to try to get pregnant and whether pills affect existing pregnancies, how antibiotics affect pills, what to do during a timezone shift or travel, how effective pills are, what alternatives to pills exist, and what non-contraceptive purposes pills may serve. In addition, it debunks randomly generated myths about birth control pills. It also supports standard prompts to cancel, stop, and restart the skill. When quitting, it also prompts the user to consider donating to Planned Parenthood to their comfort level, since donations are now a built-in Echo feature.

How I built it

I used a Lambda function on AWS to set up an instance that supports my Alexa Skill. I then built the skill on the Amazon Developer Platform in node.js. I explored the platform to further flesh out the skill and add special functions. I then used bootstrap, html, css, and javascript to create a landing page for the skill, and hosted it on Github pages. I exported the skill code to Github as well.

Challenges I ran into

Since this is the first Alexa skill I have ever created, I struggled with nearly every aspect at first, but then caught on through research, trial-and-error, and mentor guidance. I struggled to perfect the functions in node.js to make the skill answer questions, debunk random myths, respond to errors and exit requests, and also have a custom exit message. I had a little bit of a hard time perfecting the function that selects a "random" myth to debunk", and also struggled a little with linking the AWS ARN to my skill on the Amazon Developer Platform correctly, and making sure I accounted for all utterances that could trigger a particular "intent" or function.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

This is the first Alexa skill I have ever created (but far from the last!) and my first time exploring AWS and Lambda, node.js, and Alexa functionality. I'm proud of having explored a new domain of code and creation, and also having found the time to build both the skill and a landing page for the skill. I'm also proud to create a skill that can benefit women, non-binary people, and others who use birth control, and show that birth control is crucial and serves more than a contraceptive purpose (although even this purpose is important!) I myself will be using this skill, and hope that I can benefit even a single person out there who needs help but doesn't know who to ask.

What I learned

I learned that I love to explore new ways to code and empower women through technology. I will surely be exploring more Alexa skills, and bringing to life some of my other ideas, like a guided meditation skill for panic attacks/anxiety, and a skill that recommends LGBTQIA+ artists and movies.

What's next for Pill Pal

I will be adding more functionality to Pill Pal, including adding more FAQs and answer, a daily reminder to take your pill set for the time you choose, a feature that intakes user location data to identify their nearest Planned Parenthood center, more advanced Alexa functionality (like voice modulation), and support for the Echo Look using functions I learned during this hackathon. Once I have a few more features established, I will be submitting the skill for Amazon certification so that others can download the skill and benefit from it.

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