UNC startup tests e-gaming prototype aimed at promoting youth fitness


Carolina Saunders, 7th grade head of Student U, enjoys a healthy cup of frozen yogurt with one of her students. 

DURHAM, NC—Three teams of middle school students are helping a new company out of UNC Chapel Hill called Sqord test a device that will become part of the company’s e-gaming system designed to encourage kids to be more physically active.

The students, all participants in Student U, a Durham-based community effort to help students reach their academic potential, wore electronic devices similar to wristwatches from June 27 to July 8. The devices, provided by Texas Instruments, tracked each wearer’s activity level and used Sqord-developed software to record daily activity levels on a website. The system is designed to encourage kids to be more active through fun competitions and the awarding of points and prizes.

The three groups of 11 and 12 year-olds wore the electronic devices for the first week while participating in Student U on the campus of Durham Academy. For the second week, they were allowed to wear the devices home so that after school activity levels could be tracked. The test period culminated at noon on Friday, July 8, when the group with the highest overall activity level won a healthy “dessert party” catered by Durham’s Local Yogurt .

Sqord founder Coleman Greene, a recent MBA graduate of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, hopes the two weeks of testing with the Durham youths will help the company refine and debug its software and provide insights about how much competitions, rewards and online diaries can help to change kids’ behaviors in positive ways.

“This is a way for us to work on getting our product ready for the market and to learn about what motivates kids to change their behavior,” said Greene. “We want our system to promote long-term increases in activity levels that will make kids healthier overall.”

Sqord is one of six new companies from UNC Chapel Hill that participates in this year’s Carolina Launch Pad. Started in 2009 by RENCI, the UNC Office of Technology Development and UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, Carolina Launch Pad helps UNC students, faculty and staff turn their ideas and technical prototypes into viable technology businesses.

This initiative supports the Innovate@Carolina Roadmap, UNC’s plan to help Carolina become a world leader in launching university-born ideas for the good of society. To learn more about the roadmap, visit http://innovate.unc.edu/.