Healthy Apps for Kids

September 30, 2010

Students at the University of Southern California got the top nod yesterday for their ‘Trainer’ application designed to promote healthy lifestyles to children and teens.

Students at the University of Southern California got the top nod yesterday for their ‘Trainer’ application designed to promote healthy lifestyles to children and teens. Trainer designers were awarded $20,000 in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Apps for Healthy Kids competition.

Earlier this summer, the First Lady threw down the gauntlet as part of her “Let’s Move!” campaign and the virtual world gave an impressive reply to the $60,000 challenge. In four months, students, hobbyists, developers, and corporations submitted 95 eligible games and apps. More than 40,000 people signed on as supports of the challenge through the website and more than 20,000 votes were cast to select the Popular Choice winner.

The competition called on software developers, game designers, students, and other innovators to develop fun and engaging interactive tools and games that help communicate healthy lifestyle choices. In addition to the Popular Choice Award, other winners were selected by a panel of judges that included top industry experts, such as Apple Computer Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, and Mike Gallagher, President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association.

Trainer, which captured both the Grand Prize: Games and GE Healthymagination Student Awards, allows users to train a cartoon creature through visits with a cartoon wizard who gives instructions about calories and nutrition, users also gain points by doing physical activities alongside their cartoon creatures tracked by interactive webcam technology.

The grand prize in the ‘tool’ category went to ZisBoomBah’s free online tool “Pick Chow!” which allows children to create meals by dragging and dropping foods onto their virtual plate. The “Add it Up!” meters show the nutritional values in a fun and easy way and rates each meal with one to five stars – a feature that helps children learn quickly how their choices make a difference in creating a well-balanced meal. Children can send their “chow” to their parents, who then receive an email with what their child has chosen to be a healthy choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with the menu, recipe, shopping list and coupons.

The 11 winning applications are:

Trainer by David Villatoro, John Banayan, Erik Nichols, Erin Reynolds, Tony Tseung, Rita Yeung, Ross Danielson, Adam Berkett and Joseph Kohn of the University of Southern California (Grand Prize winner).

Work it Off! by Nina Limardo and Pauline Lake of Trinity College, Hartford, Conn.

Tony’s Plate Calculator by John Blackwell and Ana Blackwell of Dayton, Ohio.

Food Hero by Children’s Hospital Boston.

Hungry Hiker Build-A-Meal by Ian Holtum, Gannon Kashiwa, Frances Kruger, Nancy Walsh, Bridget Coughlin, FableVision, Jeff Kennedy Associates, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Pick Chow! by Karen Laszlo, Mike Carcaise and Lisa Lanzano of Boulder, Colo.

PapayaHead by Dean Jenkins, Larry Bethurun, John Baudrexl and Amy Wils of Olympia, Wash.

The Snack Neutralizer by Jeffrey Schwartz of Willow Springs, N.C.

Fitter Critters by John Ferrara, Brianna Lance, Andrew Karetas, James Chiponis and James Flannery of Philadelphia.

Smash Your Food by Frederic De Wulf and Marta De Wulf of Bellevue, Wash.

Food Buster by Aaron Coleman and Jesica Oratowski-Coleman of San Diego.

Another winning student design, Work It Off prototype will take nutritional information and physical activity to mobile devices and encourage healthy competition among friends. Developed by Trinity College students in Hartford, Conn., as part of the Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software summer internship program, the app uses voice recognition to easily translate food choices to recommended exercises to Work It Off!

John Blackwell and his wife Ana are the team from Dayton, Ohio behind Tony's Plate Calculator, the winner of the Popular Choice Award in the "Tool" category. They initially created the winning food calculator for Tony, their teenage son who has diabetes. Now they have made it a free online tool for anyone seeking nutritional analyses of the food they eat.

For links to the designs or videos of prototypes, go to: