Getting Started with AARP's Hacking Menopause Contest

Learn about AARP's Hacking Menopause contest and see what kinds of assistive devices you could build.

What Is Menopause?

Although many consider it taboo, menopause is a condition that is under-discussed, yet it affects hundreds of millions of women worldwide each year. It occurs when a woman reaches an age where her reproductive system begins to shut down. This can cause a myriad of unpleasant symptoms, such as hot flashes, dizziness, fatigue, and much more. In fact, AARP has a list of 35 symptoms that a menopausal woman can experience. All of these conditions can have serious effects on someone's quality of life, as it harms sleep, mood, ability to work, and much more.

This is where makers can help. AARP Innovation Labs is running a contest with the goal of "hacking" menopause, where innovators can come up with solutions to help manage various symptoms.

Ways to Come Up with a Solution

Several of the symptoms on the list cannot be resolved by a mere IoT device, as they are only treatable with more advanced therapies. However, other more manageable symptoms, such as hot flashes, could have a simple solution. First, start by thinking about which problems people run into when experiencing a symptom of menopause. Then, imagine being in their shoes: what discomfort is being experienced, and how does that affect daily activities? Finally, think of a way to manage or even solve that problem. It could be as simple as a fan or as complex as an AI assistive robot. In general, the simpler something is, the less failure-prone it becomes, so keep that in mind while designing.

Possible Inspirations

In order to actually come up with a viable product, one must first generate a solid idea. I like to begin by having a simple brainstorming session, where I imagine what combinations of technologies could solve various problems. For example, if I read about how hot flashes are very common, I might want to create a fan that turns on whenever a person's surface body temperature gets above a certain threshold.

Another good source of inspiration could come from a person you interact with, such as a grandmother/mother or family friend. If they have complained about experiencing a symptom such as memory lapses, maybe there could be a way to solve that problem for them. By making the contest take on a personal aspect, you are more likely to put in extra effort and care, likely helping many others in the process.

Devices Already on the Market

Your theoretical device is probably similar to something that already exists, so look at them as a way to gather new ideas for features or think about how to better implement your design. If you had an idea for a smart A/C unit, but other ones already exist, think about how to improve it. What other features might a person want?

Development Stages

After getting a good idea, how do you implement it? First, start by writing down each function your device should perform. Then, go on to create a flowchart that guides you through the steps your solution takes, such as this:

1. Read temperature

2. If temperature >= 99F, turn on fan

3. Otherwise, fan is off

4. Loop back to step 1

Then, construct a simple prototype with the components that you need, such as sensors, actuators, and/or IoT development boards. After you are finished with the prototype, make improvements, ask people to test it and get feedback on how well it worked. After performing all of the above steps, write up everything you did into a concise project and submit it to the Hacking Menopause Contest, where you might win up to $5,000 in prizes, as well as a chance to visit AARP Innovation Labs!

Happy hacking!

Arduino “having11” Guy
18 year-old IoT and embedded systems enthusiast. Also an intern at Hackster.io who loves working on projects and sharing knowledge.
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