Koi — empowering kids with diabetes

Umeå UniversitySweden
2023 People’s Choice Award
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Voting closes at 23:59 EST (EST time: UTC-5) on 5 May 2023.


Concept / Student


Amanda Wallgren Sam Zandbergen Rachel Zheng Laura Bisbe Armengol


The number of kids diagnosed with type 1 diabetes has increased considerably in the last few years, and if not managed well, diabetes can lead to devastating complications. Having diabetes as a kid means that you go on regular hospital visits every year. However, in between these visits, many families experience a lack of support. Using the Koi Toolboxes, the diabetes nurse can support kids, as well as the people around them, in-between hospital visits at a distance in order to create a safety net around the kid living with type 1 diabetes.

Koi consists of a series of Distance Toolboxes that diabetes nurses can prescribe, using the Nurse Platform, to kids living with type 1 diabetes. We see that there would exist different Toolboxes for kids of different ages. However, in this project, we focus on the one for kids 7–9 years old. This is, according to diabetes specialists, the age at which kids would be expected to start learning how to handle their diabetes by themselves. Around this age, they would also start school and be put into a new social context where community members (such as teachers) would benefit from learning more. Two tools were developed in the Toolbox for kids from 7 to 9 years old: 

Koi Companion to answer to the kid’s emotional needs and the Education Board for practical learning requirements.

Project Description

The number of kids diagnosed with diabetes type 1 has increased considerably in the last few years, and if not managed well from early on, diabetes can lead to devastating complications later in life. For example, heart disease, nerve damage, blindness, kidney failure, amputations, as well as mental illness.

Throughout the process of creating Koi, we regularly met with people who would state that living with diabetes does affect not only the patient but also the people around them. Therefore we choose to interview not only diabetes patients but also their parents, siblings, teachers, and medical professionals. The main insights we got were, first, that emotional support is as important as practical. Kids with someone close to them who they can share the disease with will have an easier time adjusting. The second main insight was that there is a wish for a suitable education tool for kids, families & their community and that current learning material is challenging to explain to young children. And last, having diabetes type 1 as a kid means that you go on regular hospital visits. However, at home, in between these visits a lot of families experience a lack of support.

To tackle the main issues found in our research, two products were developed for the Toolbox for Kids 7-9 Years Old:

Koi Companion is meant to answer the emotional support the kid needs. When the Koi Companion is hugged it reads the blood sugar level from the glucose sensor on the kid’s arm, using an NFC reader. Through providing haptic and visual feedback it enables the kid to externalize their disease — by taking care of the toy they are also taking care of themselves..

The Education Board responds to the kid’s practical learning requirements, for example, calculating the amount of insulin needed based on what they plan to eat. The board connects to an app where the kid will be able to participate in both general as well as customized challenges sent out by the diabetes nurse – this since everyone’s diabetes is different!

We envision that through distributing Toolboxes to both the patient, their family and community, we will create a safety net around kids living with diabetes type 1. Our aim is to make life easier for the kid, take some of the responsibility away from the parents as well as give members of the community confidence while interacting with and helping the kid.

For the precess simultaneously with conducting interviews we started to build quick prototypes that we used to act out different scenarios. This enabled us to freely discuss, criticize and find the weak parts of each concept as well as give the group something physical to collaborative gather around. After agreeing on the final concept we continued to develop the prototypes. There was also time to explore how the Koi Companion should communicate with the user which we did through trying out different light and vibration patterns using an Arduino inside the toy.


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