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problem context

Asthma is the most common long-term respiratory disease, affecting over half a million children in Canada.
An asthma attack describes a violent, often terrifying episode of coughing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest. According to Statistics Canada, these attacks claim more than 200 lives annually. ‘Back to school asthma’ is a worldwide phenomenon describing the sharp increase in asthma related hospital visits observed by elementary and middle school absences each fall.

“A peak in childhood [ages 5-15] asthma attacks that coincides with the start of the school year in September, known as ‘back to school’ (BTS) asthma, accounts for 20%–25% of all attacks requiring hospitalisation...”

- Bundle N, Verlander NQ, Morbey R, et al Monitoring epidemiological trends in back to school asthma among preschool and school-aged children using real-time syndromic surveillance in England, 2012–2016J Epidemiol Community Health 2019

“It’s not unusual to see a two or three-fold increase in emergency room visits in September and October related to asthma.”

- Dr. Megan Sandel, Boston Medical Center
Children returning to school in the fall with mild to severe asthma are exposed to the coughs and colds from students in a busy new environment, escalated by a myriad of seasonal asthma triggers. The leading method to prevent asthma attacks from escalating is the ‘Asthma Action Plan’ (AAP), a personalized set of instructions to be followed during an attack.
The leading method to prevent asthma attacks from escalating is the ‘Asthma Action Plan’, a personalized set of instructions to be followed during an attack.
The AAP refers to the use of three everyday asthma products: The Peak-Flow meter gauges the strength of your lungs by the force of your breath. The Inhaler expels medicine into the Spacer - a chamber that allows the medication to be properly and entirely inhaled.
Information on the AAP is helpful in controlling asthma attacks, however it isn’t designed to be read by a child, and relies on an adult being there to help. When asthma flares up it may happen on a bus to school, outside during gym class, or while away for lunch. The child is then tasked with juggling between their Inhaler, Spacer, and Peak-Flow meter, while attendants search for their AAP. Vital information on the AAP is difficult to parse amidst the large amount of content, especially under the anxiety and stress of an asthma attack.
Here we saw an opportunity to streamline the recovery process, To create a reliable digital guide that could empower children to overcome feelings of fear and anxiety, enabling them to combat asthma with quickness and confidence.
We determined 3 key insights: Too many products, a Necessity for Supervision, and Cognitive Overload. This prompted us to ask a series of questions that would later guide each of our decisions.

inconvenient forms

necessity for guardian

cognitive overload


this is the AAPE.

During product research, we observed how people handled using and traveling with the Peak Flow meter, the Inhaler, and the Spacer. For younger children, parents purchased large carrying cases to travel with them in school bags. Our teenage audience often decided to take a risk and forgo the products entirely. The general consensus was that there are too many sizeable products to comfortably travel with. There are plenty of guides online that show how to transform a plastic water bottle into an inhaler spacer - to create on the go!
When we saw this use case, we knew there was an opportunity for innovation. The idea we derived from this case is that all 3 asthma products are essentially plastic cylinders - each with a simple mechanism. By fusing the products into a single device that communicates data to our app, AAPE transforms and accelerates the asthma attack recovery procedure.
peakflow spacer puff outline aape
A canister is released from the AAPE by sliding it out from the rear of the product. The canisters are easy to store, access, and swap from a fabric case with velcro pouches provided when purchasing AAPE.

when an asthma attack strikes

When every second counts, crucial steps must be presented quickly and clearly. By leveraging the existing content on the written AAP, we have arranged and coordinated the information in a step-by-step experience on a mobile application. Each vital step is brought into the spotlight with clear hierarchy and a single call to action, ensuring that the information is easy to understand under the stress and anxiety of an asthma attack.
When Myles feels short of breath, he measures his lung strength by testing his Peak Flow. After blowing into the AAPE, it determines that he’s having an attack. The AAPE product relays the severity of his condition to the app.
Brendan McKay
Yan Tymoshenko
AAPE is a project fueled by dollar donuts, sour cream & onion chips, hours spent in the Hyatt hotel lounge, and the support and encouragement from friends and family. We would like to extend a gracious thank-you to; Marie Louka for invaluable research and direction during the inception of AAPE, Venus Lau & Michael Lo for sitting through messy presentations to give us advice and critique, the Granholm family for their incredible acting talent, Shabal - who guarded Studio D and motivated us during the final hours with rousing pep talks, and lastly our friends and loved ones who we spent time apart from while tirelessly working towards finish.
Thanks so much!