Project Term: Fall 2018
The MyBaby project started as an idea – as one of three finalists in North Forge’s Manitoba Open Innovation Challenge. The goal of the Open Innovation Challenge is to improve childhood literacy and numeracy in Manitoba.
The project is a partnership between Red River College’s School of Health Sciences and Community Services’ Research Department and Healthy Child Manitoba, of the Provincial Government of Manitoba. Each partner already had a wealth of resources to aid the project, such as RRC’s Science of Early Child Development (SECD) project. The SECD project is an online collection of readings, videos, links, interactive activities and more. This collection was designed for use by post-secondary educators, for professional development, in parent-education workshops, and staff training. SECD’s focus is on early childhood brain development and is concerned with the impact that early experiences have on child development.
For the MyBaby project, the team chose to develop an adaptive website, instead of an app, that will send regular push-notifications, via text or email, containing evidence-based information and videos to subscribers. A free service to Manitobans, this site will be piloted with parents of infants up to 12 months old. The partnership plans to expand the user group to be province-wide, including expectant parents and parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers (1-4 years), provided the pilot is successful.
Why an Open Innovation Challenge?
Presently, Manitoba has one of the lowest rates of literacy and numeracy in Canada. Many low-income families and single mothers do not have adequate access to knowledge about early child development or the long-term impacts that can affect their children. According to the Open Innovation Challenge, Manitoba’s children lag behind on Grade 1 readiness. The MyBaby project strives to be part of the solution by helping parents set a strong foundation to increase literacy and numeracy rates for their children in their early years.
MyBaby as Part of the Solution
As a free-of-charge application, the MyBaby project seeks to provide Manitoban parents with information about early childhood and equip them with the knowledge to maximize their child’s development. Initially, this application will be run as a pilot project, targeting a focus group consisting of single parents; young parents; and low-income parents. Users who subscribe to the MyBaby application can choose to receive emails, text messages, or both containing content relevant to their child’s stage of development. The weekly messages will consist of tips to help early childhood development and a video to elaborate on the tip – this content will be created by RRC’s Early Childhood Development team with the help of Healthy Child Manitoba. MyBaby will also serve as a portal for all of the video content that subscribed members have received in the past and remain accessible at all times.
Interactive elements will provide parents the opportunity to track/log their activity, resulting in “rewards” (e.g., high five) as well as reminders with the potential for other interactive elements either as part of the pilot or down the road (e.g., likes, shares, posting to Facebook, Instagram etc.).
Developing the project
Our students felt that this project gave them an opportunity to gain industry experience and expand their development skill sets. Some of the technologies used were predetermined before development, such as the framework, database, and multiple libraries that our students had no previous experience with. This led to a research and learning phase at the outset of the project where our students honed their research skills and independently learned how to use various technologies for this application.
Of the technical skills acquired, our students learned: back-end development in Node.js; front-end development using ReactJS and Meteor; version control using GitHub; how to incorporate third-party APIs like Twilio and Mailgun; and how to use MongoDB, a NoSQL Database.
They were also able to build upon their soft skills: conveying technical concepts to clients effectively, avoiding confusion; frequent email communication with clients; regularly presenting in front of a panel; and efficiently translating ideas from non-technical clients into technical requirements.
Our students came out of this project feeling like they came away with a valuable experience that will help them throughout their careers. Thank you to RRC and the Province of Manitoba for sponsoring this project and providing an opportunity for our students to work with your team and learn new skills and technologies.
What our students are saying
“The concept of the project had me interested as I was able to relate on a personal level to what the clients were trying to achieve. We received an ample amount of help from the BIT space staff and instructors throughout the duration of our project. This is something I appreciate very much. The clients consisted of a 6-person panel and every single one of them were very clear on what they wanted to be implemented on the application, as well as being very understanding when we could not implement some of their ideas. Working with Zhao Ping has also been a pleasure. A very understanding individual, not afraid to voice his opinion on the matter and very helpful when needed. Overall, I have had a pleasant experience with this project and with all parties involved.” – Wynn Landagan
“I have learned a lot of research skills from this project. The first week of the learning phase I spent 3 days trying to figure out dynamic routing. I was kind of worried about ‘what if we cannot get all things done before I leave?’ but after that, things went faster and faster. I started to get used to seeking help from programmers’ online communities especially Github. Our manager Ralph also helped me a lot. He doesn’t give me direct solutions but gave me ideas, which I could search by myself.” – Zhao Ping
The MyBaby project is now live: https://www.mybabymanitoba.ca/
- React JS (an all associated NPM packages)
- Meteor (and all associated Atmosphere packages)
- MongoDB – Database
- Mailgun API
- Twilio API
- Vimeo API
- Github – Repository
- Nodechef – Deployment
- Godaddy – Web Hosting
MyBaby – Contact Us Form (Mobile)