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SugarBuddy is a wearable Diabetes-monitoring aid for people with Down Syndrome to promote self-care and routine development.

What it does

It is a wearable Diabetes-monitoring aid that guides the user through animated steps, LED lights, & verbal instructions from their caregiver. It aims to bridge the inclusivity gap between the current processes and the challenges people with Down Syndrome face.

Your inspiration

Worldwide, 3000-5000 babies are diagnosed with Down Syndrome (DS) everyday. People with DS experience motor and cognitive challenges along with a myriad of health risks like Diabetes. In fact, children with DS are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with Diabetes - a life-long condition that is life-threatening if blood sugar is not properly monitored. People with DS can reach the highest levels of independence based on the Functional Independence Measure™, however, once diagnosed with Diabetes, they are automatically downgraded to the lowest levels because the tools used to care for themselves are not inclusive to their disabilities.

How it works

SugarBuddy is an all-in-one Diabetes-monitoring device with a strip dispenser, glucometer and a redesigned pricker. The strip dispenser is automated and dispenses when the user begins the process by pressing the start button. The dispensing mechanism is activated by a rubber roller, similar to the paper dispenser of a printer. The pricking mechanism is designed to be activated similar to a shutter camera, with 1 finger on top, and the thumb acting as a grip stabilizer below. The needle inside is stationary, exposing it only when the user pricks themselves and is hidden when not in use. The trigger mechanism is similar to an electric lighter with a snap or a click.

Design process

I wanted to make a wearable, personalized, and interactive Diabetes-monitoring aid that addresses the challenges of people with DS. I started with a rectangular form that consists of a strip compartment, the glucometer, and a redesigned pricker. People with DS have short and stubby fingers which lead to poor dexterity. To address this, I took inspiration from the buttons of the Gameboy Advance and incorporated the dents and curves of the corners to provide a stable grip. Eventually, I changed the form into the shape of a bear for a friendlier feel, veering away from medical intimidation. The facial features of the bear have different functions while its eyes are shown on the screen to personify the character. There are 2 trays: the strip tray to replenish the strips and the needle tray to replace the needle every after use by the caregiver. I made static 3D-printed prototypes using FDM and SLA printers to experiment on texture, color, and wearability. Eventually, I made a resin-printed prototype that mechanically works. Micro electronic parts were explored with the Arduino Micro but due to time constraints, no electronically-working prototype was produced. An Apple Watch strap is also used in the prototype as a placeholder for interchangeable Velcro straps.

How it is different

It is designed to be worn on the wrist to make it visually accessible to the user. Similar to the current process, it also uses disposable test strips and lancets. The screen shows animated steps of the process. There are 4 LED lights positioned in areas the user will interact with: the start button to begin the process, the strip dispenser for getting the strip, the prick trigger to prick the finger, and the strip slot to insert the strip and apply the blood. It is accompanied by verbal instructions pre-recorded by their caregiver to give a sense of warmth and familiarity. The device sends an SMS notification on the blood sugar results with the insulin conversion or a notification for assistance. It also comes with a phone app to track and log blood sugar results, set the insulin conversion, and edit settings like the audio recordings. Essentially, SugarBuddy is distinct because it empowers the user to be directly involved in tending to their own needs.

Future plans

The product was designed for people with DS as a case study, however, other people with similar needs can benefit from this design. Regular children diagnosed with Diabetes can also use this product as an introductory device to understand their condition and how to manage it. This can also be used by geriatrics, especially those who have developed motor, hearing, and memory challenges. In the future, the electronic end of the device would be explored to achieve its audiovisual feature. I hope that Diabetes-monitoring would be inclusive and accessible to all because everyone deserves to have a sense of control over their life and body.


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