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Philly Give Camp 2010: Part 2

Dani led us into a different conference room from the main room that most of the other conference attendees stayed in the entire weekend. We met MECA members Gloria, Kaori, and Avi who teach autistic individuals how to function independently. They discussed some of their current work and successes, including the Preparing Adolescents for Adult Life (PAAL) program.

There a number of programs that are used to make an individual’s life easier. One, used by an individual with speech impairment, is a Powerpoint presentation featuring images of common items. Clicking on an image plays a sound file that represents the image. In this way, the individual can communicate with others.

Another program is a sort of flash-card program. This program helps guide a student through daily tasks by breaking the tasks into granular steps. The program also provides a choice option that prompts the user to choose among a set number of options. Although the user program is fairly effective, the authoring application for these files is cumbersome to use. Two drawbacks of this program exist:

  1. There is no monitoring component built in. Monitoring of students is done on paper.
  2. There is no schedule component to the application, which would provide the students a task list of activities for the day

MECA wanted a program that not only was easy to use for students, but also a program easy to use for instructors to author lessons. Additionally, a program that incorporated a task-list and monitoring component would be especially helpful.

While the staff explained some of the requirements, we were joined by other team members: Brian, Erik, Sebastian, and then Joe. There was another person who came to help during the night but he didn’t come on subsequent days. Much of that first Friday evening was spent just gathering requirements and attempting to fully understand the problem.

When we finally thought we had enough to start, it was around eight or nine at night. In the interest of time, we decided we would not work on a monitoring component. We decided to break the remaining problem into three components:

  • A REST API written using Rails
  • A HTML/Ajax builder web application
  • An iPhone user application

The next post will discuss the reason for this split.

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