2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Louie Villanueva

Student links plant care to fitness habits

By Claudia Wong, September 3 2015 —

University of Calgary engineering student is studying how technology can motivate people to be more active. Researcher Fadi Botros is linking plant growth to fitness goals.

His system, tentatively named Fitness Flower, involves cyclamen flowers, a FitBit, a credit-card sized computer and a water pump.

“The computer is able to remotely access the step data from the user’s FitBit and water the plant according to how active the user was each day,” Botros said. “The plant then becomes a living visualization of the user’s activity level.”

Botros said the addition of plants to wearable technology could have a significant impact.

“There are so many apps that track your steps and your fitness levels. Some people don’t even look at it,” Botros said. “I wanted to make something that was more interactive, so that it’s always there reminding you of your fitness levels. If it’s dying, it forces you to go for a run.”

The study is ongoing and involves 10 participants. Half of the participants had their plants in a lab and the other half kept them in their homes. The plants in the lab were placed next to each other to foster competition.

The cyclamen flower was selected because it is beautiful, very sensitive to water and will quickly wilt if deprived.

Botros said he wanted to test other plants and maybe even hamsters. He speculated that getting ethics approval for hamsters might be difficult.

“I also wanted to try tomatoes, but tomato plants grow really big and smell bad indoors,” Botros said. “I thought of using mint so people could use it as tea, but I think someone was allergic. It would be really cool, though, to eat something you helped grow.”

Botros said that beyond the issue of finding a motivational object, the study was difficult to run. Participants had to be interviewed and the Fitness Flower system had to be set up in each participant’s home.

  “Building it is pretty easy, but running the study is pretty hard, especially analyzing the data. Since I set these up at peoples’ houses, I’m worried that the computer will malfunction, causing the plant to flood.”

Although the study hasn’t been completed yet, there may be a future for the Fitness Flower system.

“For now, I want to write the paper and publish it. I think this idea could potentially be marketable.”

Hiring | Staff | Advertising | Contact | PDF version | Archive | Volunteer | SU

The Gauntlet