The day wasn’t particularly distinctive at Alamo Heights Junior School, except for the deadly combination of sweltering heat and muggy humidity native to South Texas. There was, however, more than one reason I was excited to step into my (thankfully) air-conditioned, sixth-grade health classroom; we were going to watch a documentary about obesity and diabetes in America, “Super Size Me.”
This might not sound like cause for great fanfare, but any break in the normal static of a school day is thrilling. Swept into the classroom by a wave of eager students, I found myself joining in the swell’s unstoppable excitement. We dragged musty mats into the classroom, and helped excavate the ancient television from a closet. As lights dimmed, the documentary began.
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It was scary, to say the least. The best way to describe the sensation I felt was a mix of helplessness, terror, and dread. The revelations I had that day were truly frightening. I learned that many of my classmates and I most likely wouldn’t live longer than our parents. Instead, we will die at an even younger age because of what we eat and lack of exercise. I love San Antonio, and I thought about what could I do to make a difference.
The things I had learned haunted me throughout the day. My thoughts were consumed by the enormous problem my generation faced. Even as I went home, finished my homework, and ate dinner, the dilemma occupied my mind. What can we do to make a change? When I booted up my computer and opened my browser, the idea hit me.
Why not combine technology, something that kids love, with fitness?
I notified my parents of this crazy idea I had. They encouraged me to pursue it and to try to make it unique. As I researched the idea, I noticed that there were very few fitness programs devoted to kids. I developed the idea by creating an overly ambitious, sprawling, unreasonable plan. After presenting this to my parents, they helped me smooth out the wild tangle of ideas into a feasible plan: about mobile application.
WeWalk is a fitness app for kids. It logs the distance a user takes via geo tracking and geo fencing, and converts those quests into points and badges. The points are redeemable both in the real world, as coupons, and in the virtual world, as a currency for purchasing clothing and accessories for one’s avatar. While walking around San Antonio, kids can complete location-oriented quests. During these quests, a user can learn about our city’s fantastic history and culture.
When the idea was neatly wrapped into a slideshow, my parents encouraged me to share it. Because my Dad, Marcos Hernandez, is a member of Geekdom, I was able to present my idea there to a few people. Upon my arrival, I found that the gathering of “a few” people had actually swelled to more than 2o people . I was nervous at the prospect of presenting to a very small crowd of people, so you can imagine my anxiety when I saw the mass.
Thankfully, the presentation went well. I didn’t panic, there weren’t any (major) technical hiccups, and the idea was well received. The feedback I received was rallying, and motivated me to keep improving the idea.
As of late, there are three sections that compose the app. MyQuests are the simplest and easiest to complete. A user simply presses a “start” button in the WeWalk app and begins walking. The phone’s accelerometer will track the steps one takes, and convert it into points. WeWalkQuests are a little more difficult.
A location in San Antonio – Mission San José, for example – will have a route with periodically spaced GPS waypoints based around educational areas. When finished with the quest, a quiz about the location will be presented. The course taken and questions answered correctly will affect the points given.
CityQuests are event-specific quests. At a city event, like Síclovía, people can check in at a pre-designated WeWalk area. There, they’ll learn about health and fitness and start their quest. After walking, a user can check out of the event. Upon doing this, points and badges will be awarded. WeWalk is in the process of releasing a Beta version to be tested by the Mayor’s Fitness Council.
It is, however, essential to note that the app wouldn’t be anywhere near its current form without the help of people and businesses within San Antonio. The Mayor’s Fitness Council, Nick Longo, Geekdom, SA2020, The 80/20 Foundation, H-E-B, FPO Marketing (my father’s company) and Sweb Development have been amazingly helpful during the app’s development.
The WeWalk mobile app is about building a community. It’s a place where we learn, we build a community, and most importantly, WeWalk. We are looking for beta testers with a core group of kids 7 to 14 years old. Interested? Please visit www.we-walk.org or call 210-422-8397.
*Featured/top image: Estrella Hernandez, founder of WeWalk. Courtesy photo.