This year, the "Most Creative Idea" category winner in the DiabetesMine Design Challenge was determined solely by community voting. And here's what you guys picked: a program presenting a "virtual world" for kids with diabetes, in which they have to help take of little Sue Lin, all the while learning how to better manage their own diabetes —
In Sue Lin's World was created by a team of people at at small-ish web design company called Oak Grove Technologies out of Alexandria, VA (company headquarters is in Raleigh, NC). Susan Stiles, who made the contest submission, is an IT consultant and acting VP of Marketing for the firm, which primarily develops eLearning programs for established clients including the Federal Government and the Mayo Clinic. The Sue Lin program is their first attempt at a platform for health/disease management. Here's what Susan had to say about the winning project:
SS) We're an IT consulting company with close to 200 employees total, 15 in our multimedia division. We do website design, web portal development and video work — a lot of things for the government. For example, for the Department of Veterans Affairs, we designed Clinician-Patient Communication learning programs for healthcare professionals. We also do Workforce Succession Planning for HR professionals — they're all online courses for professional accreditation.
We also help companies with 508 compliance, which is making the accommodations needed to make their electronic media usable for people with disabilities.
So this interactive game for kids with diabetes seems like kind of a stretch. What was the impetus to create it?
We wanted to try creating a full package of educational materials in one area. Turns out one of our staff members has a son with diabetes, so we chose diabetes, actually about 8 months ago. Our aim is to develop a full suite of materials for children that could be used in a hospital setting or doctor's office.
Our colleague's son is 10. He was a beta tester. He helped us a lot to understand what the experience is like for a child who learns he has diabetes, the implications for everyday life. He was diagnosed just a few years ago, so it was all very fresh in his mind: life before diabetes and what it's like now. He was very capable of talking to us about how he's learned along the way, alongside his parents, who are also learning the best they can. We came up with the concept of a game to regulate blood glucose (BG) levels throughout day that would communicate what that regulation means and how it makes you feel.
What was your personal role in creating the game?
I worked on the concept, storyboards and script. Of course our graphic designers worked on creation of the character and scenario.
Were there any specific 'anchor concepts' that you designed around?
The unknown factor of diabetes was a big concern. The boy we worked with told us he had a hard time at first understanding how the illness would effect daily life: would he still be able to go out and play? Could he be on a baseball team? Could he still go to school and do things every other kid does?
The game idea is something like a virtual pet or doll. We wanted to show how this character, Sue Lin, could go out and do activities. Insulin would help. And she would have to monitor herself. Kids' focus while in the game is taking care of Sue Lin, making sure she's OK. In doing that, they're learning how to take care of themselves.
What about competition? Aren't there already some other interactive online games or virtual worlds for kids with diabetes?
We did not come across anything in our search. I thought for sure there might already be some type of similar game or app. But I couldn't find anything like this with a 'virtual doll' that you're taking care of.
Can Sue Lin players advance to different levels of achievement?
If we get the funding we need to build this out, we definitely plan for increasing levels of complexity. The initial level that's presented is very broad — there are no specific carb counts or insulin amounts shown. Right now it's more to get the general idea of how your body might change over the course of a day and what you might need to do.
Did you have any doctors or medical professionals giving you input?
I had my sister look at it, who is a physician. Our colleague with the diabetic son also talked to some (pediatric diabetes) experts at Duke University who helped treat his son.
What's the status of development now?
The 'Sue Lin' game has been built out as far as the demo stage only. It's targeted at kids ages 5-12. We're currently shopping it around to see if some organizations are interested. I'm not sure that we can successfully build it own and license it completely on our own; it would be smart to team up with another company. So the game could eventually be licensed to an institution, or partially licensed to us and an institution, or some kind of combo thereof.
Sounds like this the first online game your company has attempted. Don't you need validate the concept with users first?
Right. We've done nothing quite like this before. But we do a lot of work with a nationwide career preparation program for high school students. For that program, we're coming up with a much more complex interactive game for the students. It includes an aptitude test and educational games related to finding out more about careers and your interest areas.
The next step for 'Sue Lin' is focus groups, just like we do with the high school students. If we can get to the next stage (of funding), we'll definitely be building out one full level of this diabetes game and then testing it with children.
So will winning this competition help you at all to get In Sue Lin's World to the next stage?
I think so. I think it's terrific. I'll probably use the prize money to come out to the Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco with a colleague — to meet other people and see what ideas are out there.
We're just really happy to put our work in a public venue like this and let people have a look. It's great to get the positive feedback!
Congratulations again to Susan and the team at Oak Grove Technologies, illustrating group creativity at its best.