Prototype solutions to fix unhealthy eating habits

By Juan Calvillo

The Invention and Inclusive Innovation, or i3, Program at East Los Angeles College presented two prototype solutions for health- related problems during a panel on February 2. 

One team, the iHuskies, focused its time on finding solutions to the problem of student homelessness at ELAC. 

The second team, Brew, chose to focus on creating a way to bring healthy eating habits and health related disease prevention to the communities of East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights.

The students in each of the teams were:

Team iHuskies:

Pamela Cabingo

Bryan Chan

Victor Aceves

Beatriz Flores Garcia

Dulce Torres Gonzalez

Fatima Zahori

Escarlett Nava

Team Brew:

Gerver Hernandez

Wendy Hernandez

Irene Cuenca

Ana Flores

Both teams presented their final prototypes to stakeholders in the ELAC community. This included faculty, staff, friends, family and business owners. 

Team Brew pitched an application that would help users, among other things, find food information and have healthy recipes for families on the go. 

Team iHuskies pitched a website that would collect information and links to various student services with a special focus on helping homeless students.

Each team had to put aside their preconceived notions of the problems they faced to understand all the moving parts that made them up. 

During interviews with the Associated Student Union President Steven Gallegos and Treasurer Jessica Barrales, Team iHuskies found one of the major barriers for many students to get information was the limitations of the ELAC website.

Their initial research showed how important technology was to getting information to students in need.

Cabingo said the recurring theme among the people they spoke to was that the school site just wasn’t any good. Chan said Gallegos and Barrales acknowledged that the school site felt outdated.

“In my head I just assumed, ‘Oh, the administrators are always too busy or they don’t care.’ But just listening to them [Gallegos and Barrales] talk about how they want to change it, is very insightful,” Chan said.

Zahori said what struck her as interesting is all the programs that are available to students on campus. She said a program like Basic Needs was something she didn’t know even existed on campus. 

She said finding all the programs that can help students helped the team really understand what could be provided to students.

“[It] reinforces the point of what we are trying to do. We are trying to reach out to students, let them know, ‘Hey, there’s a resource. Come utilize it. Benefit from it,’” Zahori said.

Team Brew found that their initial thoughts on teen eating habits were incorrect. 

Cuenca said the team had a bias from the start when it came to teens. 

The team originally thought teens ate whatever they wanted, and this came from experiences some of the team members had in their youth. She said teens are not really in total control of what they choose to eat.

Gerver Hernandez said one of the things they found were the triggers that went into comparing healthy eating and unhealthy eating.

He said the focus became showing residents of East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights ways to prevent many of the health problems that come from eating unhealthy foods.

While each team focused on different “wicked” problems, their solutions came from five weeks of intensive collaboration between the program’s students. 

A “wicked” problem is one that is hard to solve due to the complexity surrounding it.

Jennifer Alvarado, an accounting professor in the Business Department, said the entire methodology of the i3 Program is focusing on the problem for as long as possible. 

This allows students in the program to learn, discuss and debate the various angles to tackle a problem. 

Alvarado was joined by librarian Rita Suarez and Life Sciences professor Ray Oropeza as program professors for the winter cohort.

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