March 22, 2013

Doctor Furia (seated middle), Professor Meng (far right) and students from Meng's computer science design class.

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By Sue Marquette Poremba

Have you ever visited the doctor after an injury and wanted to learn more about the diagnosis? Or you twisted your ankle, and your doctor suggested you keep track of the swelling and discoloration? Thanks to students in Xiannong Meng's computer science design project class, there is an app for that — Heel Thy Tendon.

In the summer of 2012, Meng, professor of computer science, met with Lewisburg orthopedic surgeon John Furia about the idea of creating an app that would provide information and instructions to patients of orthopedics, as well as share information with other orthopedics professionals. "We came up with ideas that would cover what he wanted to do, but also what we could or could not do," Meng says.

In order to reach as many potential customers as possible, the new app was developed for multiple smartphone platforms, so the 16 students were broken into three teams: one to work on an iPhone app, another for Android and the third to create a hybrid HTML5 version that could be used on either platform or on a web browser.

"This was one of the times where the professor knew less than the students," Meng says. He and the students point out that they learned primarily from their peers, all of whom brought different levels of expertise to the project.

The app focuses on four regions on the foot and ankle that are common problem areas. The user chooses the picture that represents the area where pain or injury is, and a series of prompts offers suggestions on what the injury might be. The app covers symptoms, common treatment methods and typical stages of recovery for the injuries. There also is a camera feature so users can document their conditions.

The student teams discovered that building an app takes more than just good coding skills. "Dr. Furia provided all of the documents for us to use, but it was up to us to arrange them in the way that they would be best viewed," explains Dana Germano '13, who worked on the iPhone version of the app. "We had to be knowledgeable with the material to be able to do that. We discovered there is so much to think about that you never worry about when you just open up an app."

Heel Thy Tendon is available free from Apple's App Store and Google Play.

Contact: Division of Communications