App-tastic! Two La Jolla students place fifth in county app design contest

By Ashley Mackin

Macky Broido, a freshman at La Jolla High School and Max Sun, a freshman at The Bishop’s School, took fifth place in a countywide app design contest – competing against adults, Feb. 22-23.

The students joined the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge, sponsored by the San Diego County Health and Human Services Department. The topic of the app contest was “Harnessing local data to help prevent four major diseases in San Diego County.”

Broido explained, “Our app is designed to educate the public, because the county (health department) has a lot of data covering three behaviors that lead to four diseases that account for 50 percent of deaths in San Diego.” The four diseases are diabetes, heart disease/stroke, asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The three behaviors that contribute to those diseases are smoking, lack of exercise and bad eating habits.

With this data in hand, the boys developed “GradeMyHealth,” Broido said. “What the app is designed to do is give the users information in a visual graph — or look at the information by data. You choose your neighborhood and you answer five questions, and then it shows you how you compare to the rest of your community. It will also tell you how you can improve your health based on your habits.”

For example, those who indicate they smoke can click on “My Prescription” and find resources to help them quit smoking.

In addition to how the user compares to their community, it explains with a pie graph, the percentage each major disease (as well as cancer) contributes to the number of total preventable disease-related deaths. The results are based on pre-recorded data, and answering the questions (including the neighborhood) does not get sent anywhere.

For the contest, the boys had two days to come up with a way to present the information and program it into a user-friendly app. They also had to give a presentation explaining how their app could be used and its benefits. During the presentation, Broido’s father Mark said he noticed the judges downloading the app on their phones to try it out.

The boys placed fifth out of 18 teams — all comprised of adults — which came with a cash prize of $1,000. Some competitors came to San Diego from Silicon Valley; and a Ph.D. student came from UCLA.

In addition to placing as well as he did, Sun said a few things about the contest surprised him. “I think it was more a competition for ideas, so even if we weren’t great at programming, we still could have entered and if we had a great idea, we could have had a chance at winning.”

However, the boys went above and beyond the quest to make a functioning smartphone app.

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