Everyone Can Use a HUG: OSU Develops Micro-Grant System in AFFORDABLE

Ever feel like you could use a hug? Well many in the healthcare system feel like they can’t find or afford one when it comes to managing their illness. AFFORDABLE seeks to be the portal for people to provide a helping hand in the healthcare system, called Health Utilizing Grants, or HUGs for short. People and charities would be able to provide funds as low as 100 dollars to people in need in their community. Furthermore, they can direct these funds to a specific population, or an illness that holds significance to them with selection options. The goal is for AFFORDABLE to increase reciprocal support to their community members healthcare needs.

Who would turn down a HUG? We carry that philosophy with the microgrant giving system called Health Utilizing Grants (HUGs)

A development team at The Ohio State University decided to take on the challenging task of developing tools to make HUGs possible. This included four ambitious students in their final year of the degree in Computer Science: Ariana Marean, Isha Satpalkar, Ahmir Robinson, and Nikitha Kovvuri. Their team went by the name Team Trust, representing their goal to produce a reliable system that allowed sharing of resources to improve community relationships and ‘trust’. Their goal was to do an overhaul of the back end and front end stack to create a system that allows individuals and groups (such as charities) to create and control HUGs.

First, they developed a whole new user class called Donors, these are the individuals looking to contribute to others healthcare, where as a user is an individual looking for support. A donor could then create a group that represents an organization. For organizations that would want special information or privileges, they developed a rudimentary validation system that cross-referenced their information with the IRS using a Propublica API. Now users could represent larger organizations that would wish to contribute through AFFORDABLE.

Their second step was creating the tools and variables to allow users to create the conditions of a new HUG. How much do I want to raise? Who does it go to? When do they get it? What cause should the funds be dedicated too? These are all questions that users will be asked when setting up their HUG. Once created, it would be posted in a HUG view that allows users to find and search for available HUGs. Then users can select to apply for them directly and get support ASAP!

Ariana Marean, who has volunteered with AFFORDABLE following her graduation, spoke about her experience during the project:

  • Why did you work on this project?

I started working with AFFORDABLE in the fall of 2019 as part of my capstone course at Ohio State University. My team found the mission of AFFORDABLE compelling and chose the project. Throughout the semester, I learned more about the vision for the application and began to understand its potential to impact the lives of those in need of finances for medical expenses.

  • How did you enjoy working with your team? Are there any shoutouts you would like to give to your teammates?

My team communicated and delegated the work effectively. By the end of the term, each member had specialized in certain technologies used in the application. Ahmir was the testing expert, Niki mastered the database and Isha and I lead work on the integration of the frontend and NodeJS business logic.

  • What was your favorite part of the project?

 My favorite part of the semester was overcoming the learning curve. Our team had limited experience and knowledge of the technologies used for AFFORDABLE entering the semester. Within a few weeks, we were able to pick up a new page and understand its implementation challenges and required effort.

  • Were there any unexpected challenges you faced while working on the project?

The team was surprised to find that many of the major design hurdles surrounded the frontend of the application. There were multiple features the group assumed would be simple, such as dynamic rendering that required effort magnitudes above the original estimate. While ReactJS provided lots of power for the creation of pages, it brought added complexity with its various handlers and rendering rules.

  • How have your experiences helped you grow as an individual/ what did you learn throughout your time with AFFORDABLE?

Working on AFFORDABLE solidified my web development knowledge. At Ohio State, the core course work includes limited web development projects. This application allowed me to build off of the basic HTML, JavaScript and SQL knowledge that I gained in previous years. Following the end of the semester, I was better able to articulate my web development knowledge.

  • What does AFFORDABLE mean to you/ how do you see AFFORDABLE being used to improve healthcare?

Similar to many web applications AFFORDABLE allows people to have access to resources otherwise unreachable without the help of the internet. I was shocked to find that such an application did not already exist because the concept and execution are so straightforward. Despite the idea being clear, the execution remains the most complex component. AFFORDABLE will bridge the gaps that pervade healthcare. It will allow a smooth and simple access to help for those who are already burdened by their diagnosis.

  • What would you tell a future group that was just starting the semester as advice for doing a project like this?

I would tell future groups that there is more than one way to provide certain functionality to the application. When you determine that your current path will be difficult do not continue down it unless there are no other options. There will be countless times that you have to throw out your work or redo it and that is okay. It does not mean that you failed, it means that you truly understand what is happening. Standing by a poor design decision is not heroic, you will thank yourself if you admit the mistake or the need for a change.

  • What do you hope to do after college?

I will be working at Unum as a member of their Digital Development Program. This includes  three one-year rotations with their various digital teams that build applications to support their benefit offerings.

We want to thank everyone who has been active on the AFFORDABLE project and expect great accomplishments in the future from the Team Trust developers. With the collective effort of these passionate contributors, we will reduce barriers to healthcare access and improve the healthcare system for everyone.

Team Trust Developers:

Ariana Marean
Ariana Marean is currently a fourth year student studying Computer Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University. She is originally from the Chicago suburbs, but has come to call Columbus home. With her free time, she builds connections among the technical community in Ohio through her work with the student organization OHI/O. She is pursuing opportunities in the technology space that will allow her to use the wide range of skills she has gathered in her time at Ohio State.
Isha Satpalkar
Isha Satpalkar is a graduating senior at The Ohio State University studying Computer Science and Engineering. She is passionate about empowering women in STEM and achieves this through her work with the student organization Society of Women Engineers (SWE). She is currently pursuing opportunities and plans to work in industry as a full-time software engineer. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, run, and walk dogs at her local dog shelter.
Ahmir Robinson
Ahmir Robinson is a graduating senior at The Ohio State University with a major in Computer Science Engineering. In his free time he loves to cook, so far his favorite dish he’s cooked is a cajun shrimp bake. He also has a passion for music and plays the drums and has been a percussion instructor at his old high school for four years. Ahmir will enter the workforce after graduation as a Software Engineer, and in the future hopes to start a nonprofit organization in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio teaching children the fundamentals of his two passions, coding and music.
Nikitha Kovvuri
Nikitha Kovvuri is a graduating senior studying Computer Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University. She is highly invested in student organizations, women in technology workgroups and supports diversity through uniting the Buckeye spirit with Indian traditions. She is passionate about giving back to the community and is currently pursuing full-time opportunities in the technology field with plans to work in industry. In her free time, she enjoys baking cakes and dancing.

About the author: Warren Campbell

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