Microsoft: Team MangoBunnies’ Idea Wows At Imagine Cup
Microsoft’s global technology competition, The Imagine Cup, continues to solve some of the world’s biggest problems and this year, Team MangoBunnies addresses HIV/AIDS medication reminder through the creation of CAMRA (for Computer-Assisted Medication Regimen Adherence program).
Team MangoBunnies comprises three young women from Indiana attending university: Erin Donahue, 22 and Ashley Meyers, 21, both from DePauw University and Malisa Vongskil, 21 from Purdue School of Engineering and Technology.
While the team did not win at the U.S. segment of the Imagine Cup competition, they did however capture the imaginations of many with CAMRA, a tool that keeps HIV and AIDS patients mindful of their medication timing through their mobile devices.
The motivation and inclination toward the idea behind CAMRA seemed natural with Donahue's mother, Carol Boushey, a professor in Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University, recently travelling to Kenya to help HIV/AIDS patients with their diets.
Myers' mother, Brenda White, also works in health care. Myers herself worked as an intern in the healthcare system. Donahue's mom suggested creating something to help people take their medication. A little research showed that it could be a powerful idea.
"The thing about medication adherence rates is currently they sit around 70 per cent," Donahue says. "For an HIV/AIDS regimen to be effective, it has to have at least a 90 per cent adherence rate." If a person forgets to take their meds too often, the virus can start to have mutations that make it drug resistant.
"The drug-resistant strain is awful for two reasons," Donahue explains. "The regimen is not effective anymore. Also, if someone else is infected, they have the drug-resistant strain, too."
Team MangoBunnies members met in an introductory computer science class three years ago and have been friends ever since. Donahue, the project lead, convinced the team to sign up for Imagine Cup. This year, students were required to come up with technology that aligns with the UN Millennium Development Goals. In other words, fight hunger and poverty, eradicate AIDS, and improve education, maternal health, and environmental sustainability.
To create their entry, Team MangoBunnies got to work learning programming languages such as C#, ASP.NET, and XML. Put simply, their software application is a sophisticated mobile phone alarm.
"It's just the same as any alarm you'd find on a phone," Myers says.
The MangoBunnies' simple way of helping HIV/AIDS patients dazzled Imagine Cup judges and caught the attention of their peers in an online People's Choice Award vote. While thousands of students from more than 125 schools throughout the United States registered in this year's U.S. Imagine Cup, only 15 teams advanced to the U.S. Imagine Cup 2009 Finals.
Vongskul is convinced that their device could be helpful for patients with diseases other than AIDS.
"There are people who have to take multiple medications," she said. "My godmother has had diabetes, lupus, and breast cancer. You should see her medicine cabinet."
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