All of us have experience with friends and family members who suffer from anxiety attacks. When we were brainstorming ideas, as we brought up mental health, each of us had a different connection to someone who experiences a lot of panic attacks. So, we agreed to tackle this problem. As for our inspiration for the device itself, we looked at making a much, much, simpler version of a smartwatch that was specifically designed to help anxiety.
What it does
The Buddy uses a heartbeat sensor that continuously tracks the wearer's heartbeat in order to detect fast, abnormal, spikes. These quick and sudden changes in heart rate are one of the telltale signs of a panic attack, and often happen before any other symptoms. If the sensor detects a sudden spike, a light on the Arduino will switch from a static blue (the color that represents a normal heart rate) to red. When the wristband illuminates red, it informs the user that they will possibly have a panic attack soon, which will give them proper time to prepare, which they would not have had otherwise.
How I built it
While it was difficult to get any of the parts fabricated due to lack of access to machines and being so far apart, we were still able to render very good 3D models of The Buddy as well as make a simple version of the circuitry and coding required. To do the 3D Modelling, we used Autodesk Inventor and designed the custom parts necessary to create a housing unit for all the circuitry. We designed the housing around the two boards that we had: the SparkFun Photodetector Board (heartbeat sensor) and the ArduinoProMini, making sure to get all of the measures correct so they could be properly assembled. For the circuitry, we built a simple circuit using a breadboard to wire the Adruino to the heartbeat sensor. Arduino code was written to analyze the data given by the heartbeat sensor, which would then produce the correct response by the LED.
Challenges I ran into
The biggest challenge that we faced was the distance between us. Each of us is around a 3-hour drive away from each other at our respective colleges, which means we have to collaborate all online. While this was simple enough the real trouble came in when we were deciding on which components to use. Each of us had different Arduinos and LEDs that would have been perfect for the project, but because we could not physically give each other these parts, compromises had to be made so that all the necessary components were in one place to build the circuit.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Our biggest accomplishment was getting the circuitry to work. There were a lot of hiccups and small issues with the code that was very difficult to diagnose, and therefore hard to fix. However, after many hours of tweaking the code, we finally got it to work, which felt fantastic.
What I learned
The biggest thing we learned was the power of delegating and splitting up the work. Due to the nature of this online hackathon, we could never work on anything together; everything had to be done solo. Luckily, each of us had our own specialty when it came to the project, which allowed us to split up the work accordingly. This let us finish the project efficiently, which gave us time for a lot of tweaking of our individual final designs and doing the video and write-ups.
What's next for Team 2 - Buddy
The first thing would be to develop a working prototype of the device. This would include fabricating the housing and fixing the circuitry to it. Another important next step would be to develop an app that syncs with The Buddy. Even further down the road would be exploring other mental health issues and how the technology in The Buddy could help those as well.