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Unequal Access People living with disabilities hit dead end in food accessibility. PAGE 8





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Illini Hackers take first in Major League Hacking 2014 fall season.

People with disabilites face obstacles in food access.

A new monitor can measure glucose levels by changing color.





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the night of Jan. 27, the long wooden tables of Siebel Center’s room 2405 were nearly fi lled by 8:15 p.m. With a Pandora station pumping music through the hall’s speakers, students pulled out takeout containers, laptops — one even had a desktop monitor — and plenty of soda for fuel until midnight. The third Hack Night of the school year was underway, and the Illini Hackers were getting to work. On Jan. 18, the Illini Hackers — a loosely formed group at the University with the goal to “foster a community of technologists, builders and hackers” — were named the winners of the Major League Hacking fall 2014 North America season. “It’s not hacking in the sense that you’re hacking into systems; you’re hacking together a project,” said Nick Kortendick, sophomore in Engineering. “It’s not a business plan or anything like that. It’s literally just

making a project of anything ... fun little projects that people otherwise wouldn’t have time to work on.” From the 36 Major League Hacking events, or hackathons, throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, the Illini Hackers racked up a total of 381 points, which is 26 more than the second place University of Maryland , College Park team. The score is a combination of both participation points, the number of students who attended and merit points for winning hacks and placing at each event. The recognition comes just as members of Illini Hackers are gaining speed themselves. While University students have been attending hackathons across the country since the events started, it wasn’t until last fall that Illini Hackers was formed as the umbrella group to organize the school’s hacking community and host informal Hack Nights throughout the year.


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7 “It recognized all of the efforts we’ve put into advocating for these events and encouraging people to attend — it’s all paying off,” said Nathan Handler, senior in Engineering. “It also doesn’t hurt for things like encouraging people to come here and see what our own hackathon has in store.” Major League Hacking is planning to host an official award ceremony for Illini Hackers sometime in February, Handler said, which coincides with the start of the University’s second annual hackathon, HackIllinois. Both Handler and Kortendick are serving as co-directors for this year’s HackIllinois,

“When you get out into the real world, ... part of what you need to know is just, ‘I need to make this thing work, so how do I make it work?’” Matthew Dierker Director for the first HackIllinois

running from Feb. 27 to March 1. The 36-hour event will overflow Siebel Center with more than 800 students from all over the country and recruiters from leading companies such as Microsoft, Interactive Intelligence, Yelp and Dropbox. With a long list of sponsors eliminating any fees for participants, the event is meant to allow students to easily collaborate, network and hack together in a creative space. “From talking to (recruiters and sponsors), a lot of them view a hackathon like this, where they can see the students working and actually creating real code, as a much more valuable recruiting opportunity and branding opportunity than your traditional career fair where all you really get is a resume and a brief two-second talk with the student,” Handler explained. According to Matthew Dierker, director for the first HackIllinois and senior in Engineering, the first event pulled in about 1,500 applications for participants and admitted nearly 800 in April 2014. Since the success of the first HackIllinois, this year’s event has gained more interest and applications, but will remain relatively the same size due to space limitations. However, the upcoming HackIllinois will feature other new additions. The weekend event will start with a welcome ceremony in the Illini Union’s ballrooms but will most nota-

bly end with a conclusive expo in which participants can present what they’ve worked on, according to Kortendick. “That’s going to be open to the whole community to attend to get greater visibility for HackIllinois, for the projects that the participants are working on and the sponsors,” Handler said. Projects can range from creating new apps, hardware, websites and more. And while some projects do go on to become startups and gain venture capital, Kortendick said, the focus of the event is to foster an increased emphasis on projects outside of coursework in a creative and collaborative atmosphere. “When you get out into the real world, ... part of what you need to know is just, ‘I need to make this thing work, so how do I make it work?’” Dierker explained. “So the whole point of building a hackathon project is that it’s something that you don’t have to necessarily do right, you don’t have to necessarily do well, but you just have to make it work.” While the Major League Hacking award is a great recognition for the Illini Hackers, it is also a validation to one of the country’s leading community of hackers hard at work. Sarah can be reached at

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People living with disabilities hit dead end in food accessibility

study by Ruopeng An, professor in community health, has found that physical, mental and financial barriers can all be obstacles in receiving proper nutrition for adults with disabilities. T he study indicated that approximately 10 to 25 percent of U.S. adults fall into one or more categories of disability, from activities of daily

living to general physical activities. In An’s 2014 paper, “Nutrition intake among U.S. adults with disabilities,” An compared selfreported food and supplement consumption data from surveys conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. The team then compared dietary intake and dietary guideline recommendations for people with and without disabilities.

10 The researchers found that adults overall do not consume enough nutrients, with the majority of people deficient in both potassium and fiber, among other nutrients. One of the researchers who worked with An, Chung-Yi Chiu, a University professor in kinesiology and community health, noted that much of the study was a collaborative effort. Though her field of study is different than An’s, the two were able to bring together two different disciplines after she brought up the idea of studying the health effect that a proper diet has on adults with disabilities. “My background is rehab psychology, (An’s) background is more like health policy analysis and the health economics issue. For me, I always focused on how I could promote — for people with disabilities — their health and well-being,” Chiu said. For people with disabilities, An and Chiu found that they were far less likely to receive the recommended amounts of saturated fat, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and potassium. Chiu believes that one of the reasons why this occurs is due to the cost of health care, as people who don’t earn much money will

“Disabled adults face poverty, homelessness and other challenges, which are amplified by their disability. I am not surprised that disabled adults have more difficulty attaining a healthy diet in addition to the other challenges they already face.” SOPHIE HOFFMAN senior in AHS

forfeit it, but when health care must be a priority, people often have to forfeit other things. One of the ways she explains the nutritional deficit is by comparing her own experiences in college to those of people who have to live on a right budget. “When I was an international student, four to five years ago, one thing I can say for money is that I spent less money on food. So I believe this is a kind of common reasoning for people with (disabilities),” Chiu said. “When we have less money, the first thing I can say is that I will purchase cheaper food

— or convenience food — and usually those foods were not quite healthy,” Sophie Hoff man, a senior in AHS, found that the study confi rmed things she had already predicted. “Disabled adults face poverty, homelessness and other challenges, which are amplified by their disability. , I am not surprised that disabled adults have more difficulty attaining a healthy diet in addition to the other challenges they already face,” Hoff man wrote in an email. Hoff man, like Chiu, believes that there

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are many ways that those with disabilities can better attain nutritious food. “In my opinion, we can provide vouchers for nutritious food for people with disabilities. In addition, we can provide transportation to grocery stores and ensure that grocery stores are better equipped to accommodate people with disabilities,” Hoffman said. “I think these measures can make nutritious food more accessible to disabled adults.” Chiu said she hopes that, in the future, more public policy will address these issues in more ways than just financial grants,

acknowledging that money is useless if you have no way to buy the food you need. “We hope from the policy level they can educate the social welfare programs or people in a clinic environment, to educate or provide some substantial support ... But they also should have some specific program,” Chiu said. “My idea would be that you can encourage those big supermarkets to have disability services. They can order online, and then they deliver. So they can have fresh food week by week, at least, rather than month by month.”



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The research served as a way for Chiu to give others a wake-up call to the situation of adults with disabilities. “Our study just wanted to show people that even for such a simple thing — eating, we need to eat everyday, right? — to support our life. (Adults with disabilities) already lose something,” Chiu said. “But when people see disability, usually, they will not think about, ‘Did you have a good healthy eating?’ They don’t care.” Susan can be reached at



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wo researchers at the University have developed a sensor material out of hydrogel that monitors blood glucose levels continuously. In other words, the sensor can evaluate fluctuating levels of glucose in the bloodstream in a linear fashion, instead of testing for it at different points in time. The developed sensor material is very thin — only  micrometers thick — and made of the same consistency as tofu. The researchers, Professor Paul Braun and materials science and engineering graduate student, Chunjie Zhang, said this inexpensive material has the potential to help two main groups of people: Intensive


Care Unit patients who experience glucose fluctuation after surgery or traumatic injury and diabetics looking to monitor their blood sugar levels continuously. For Mary O’Donnell, freshman in  who was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of , this sensor material could be beneficial if developed into an efficient monitoring device. O’Donnell said that when she was first diagnosed, she was very good at remembering to test her blood sugar levels throughout the day, but once middle school came around, she tended to forget more. When she used a continuous glucose-monitoring

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device to try and solve this issue, however, she said she had problems with it. She then switched back to using the OneTouch glucose meter to prick her finger at different points throughout the day. Although this method is non-continuous, she said at the time it was a better option than the continuous monitor. “The continuous monitor was a painful process having it in and then taking it out, and the monitor was also connecting through a radio device and sometimes it would go off and wake me up at night,” she said. “I had my monitoring device, and then I had a separate site on my body where the insulin pump was, but I couldn’t shower with either of them. I would have to take them off. They told me they didn’t want me to work with it, even if I had to take it off, because I worked at a swimming pool.” O’Donnell said if she had any advice for future continuous glucose-monitoring systems, they should be less restricting and more accurate. She said if done the right way, these monitors have value. “Having your blood sugar continuously monitored is a really good benefit,” she said. Braun and Zhang said that they are aware that continuous glucose monitoring systems already exist in the commercial market, but their sensor material is different. “Existing products that are on the market now use enzyme electrodes to monitor glucose levels,” said Zhang. Using this method, glucose concentration is correlated with the intensity of electrochemical signals. “Our approach uses a different chemistry to sense glucose,” said Zhang. When the hydrogel material that they constructed comes in contact with glucose, it changes color, ranging on a scale of red to green, said Zhang. For each glucose concentration level, there is a corresponding color, and these colors are identified by their specific wavelength. “Glucose concentration here is correlated with wavelength of light or color of light, which can provide accurate readings. Our approach is also cheap in cost. We offered an alternative design for continuous glucose monitoring, with a potential to meet many critical requirements for clinical use,” said Zhang. The change in the gel’s color happens as the gel material, formally called polyacrylamide, expands. Small particles in the gel called polystyrene particles move apart when the gel expands. As the space between them changes, so does the way the gel manipulates light. This causes the change in the gel’s color. Glucose in the blood stream is attracted to the gel, which contains boronic acid. When glucose floods into the gel from the bloodstream, the gel naturally expands. Braun and Zhang quickly discovered that, in order for their sensor to work, they needed to first add a volumeresetting agent called polyvinyl alcohol into the gel so that it would


start sensing from its smallest form. The resetting agent is important so that when the gel comes into contact with glucose it can only expand and not shrink. If the gel does not start at a shrunken state, it can react to contact with glucose by either shrinking or expanding, said Zhang. If this were to happen, one specific level of glucose concentration would be represented by two different colors on either end of the spectrum, and the results would not be accurate. Braun and Zhang hope to eventually translate their sensor material into an actual sensor device. “Our possible plan would be putting the sensor material in a glass fiber, and then we can thread the glass fiber into the blood

stream through a needle,” said Zhang. He said they are excited about the contributions a device like this could make in  units. “The doctors in the , they really want to know blood glucose f luctuations of patients. Usually after surgery, injury or any type of traumatic event, patients’ blood glucose concentration can fluctuate really badly because of the body trying to respond to the damage that the patient is experiencing,” said Zhang. “With continuous glucose monitoring, the outcomes after surgery can be greatly improved,” he said. Bridget can be reached at

Technograph Volume 130, Spring 2015