A motivational smartphone application that uses the power of social media to support cancer patients and carers has taken third place at the UAE finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup. The app is the work of four final year students from the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD).
Fariha M. Khan, Abdulbasit Abubakr, Artaza Aziz and Ashiq Ur Rahman are the team behind ‘Heroes’, which aims to combine social media and positive psychology to empower cancer patients, survivors and caregivers on their journey through the disease.
Artaza, a Computer Science major at UOWD explained, “The app is based on a social network that connects users to form a close knit community. Users are able to share photos and notes representing their journey, which are categorised based on positive attitude or behaviour such as being grateful, savouring the small things, empathising and giving back to other people. The application also provides a feature to alert close friends/relatives or authorities during emergency situations.”
Having been shortlisted from 17 entries in this year’s Imagine Cup UAE, the group were among the top five teams who took part in the national finals of the competition, which saw them present their application in front of a distinguished panel of judges, representing Du, Dubai SME, and Government departments from Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
The inspiration for the app came from Fariha, who wanted to focus their entry on a cause close to her heart. She said, “I have a family member who has suffered with cancer and I wanted to do something that would help the cause and promote positive behaviour among patients and carers going through the disease. Ultimately, the competition brought together my two dreams – to take part in the Imagine Cup and to do so for a cause that I am very passionate about.”
Fellow team member Ashiq continued, “We first thought about creating something that focussed on goal setting, but our research actually found that this kind of approach could be damaging in the context of cancer care, so we then looked into ideas around mindfulness, which is something increasingly used in the cognitive treatment of patients. The categories we have selected help to refine posts for users so they can pick those relevant to them and pin them to a digital scrapbook, to reflect on as they continue they journey.”
Now in its 12th year, The Microsoft Imagine Cup is dubbed ‘the world’s premier student technology competition’. It encourages students to break new ground by developing an original technology project that focuses on the toughest challenges the world is facing today. The Heroes team is part of a long line of successful entrants in the competition, with UOWD teams having taken the regional title to reach the worldwide finals twice in recent year.
Of this most recent entry, team member Abdulbasit concluded, “It is really about connecting people who have dealt with or are dealing with cancer to allow them to help each other through the shared experience. You can even find people based on their location or the kind of cancer they’re dealing with. We are hoping to be able to trial and develop the app further, in partnership with cancer support organisations in Dubai.”