Hunger Health Bar

Ariana Berdy's circuits project. A felt strawberry cake
Figure 1: The Hunger Health Bar; photo by Ariana Berdy

As a busy college student I often forget or don’t have time to eat. Often times I have observed that society in general gets so wrapped up in the things that they are doing or need to get done that they place a minimal importance on eating. This food-comes-second lifestyle is unhealthy. Making a habit of skipping meals can lead to negative consequences such as physical fatigue; mental exhaustion; and , when you finally do eat, overeating and calorie loading (Skipping meals can have negative consequences).

In response to the “food comes second” way of life I have created a project that directly deals with a person’s relationship to their meals. My project idea is to create a “health bar” or “fuel indicator” for a person to wear. This indicator acts as a timer. The timer measures the time from their last meal or snack and counts down to when the wearer’s next meal should be. The health bar then visually represents the drain of energy as time passes between meals.

How it works

The function of the Hunger Health Bar is very simple. At its heart, this project is a timer. This project estimates that the ideal time in-between meals is 5-6 hours. This estimates that if a person has breakfast at 7am, they will eat lunch at noon or 1pm and dinner at 6 or 7pm.

The hardware used in the making of this project is an Arduino LilyPad micro-controller board, a lithium battery, two LilyPad button boards, 6 LEDs, a LilyPad vibrator board, and conductive thread. The software used to code the project is the Arduino IDE.

By default this project will indicate a “full health bar”, which will be represented by all 6 LED lights being lit. The program functions by turning off one LED in sequence every hour. When only the last LED is lit, the vibrator motor will vibrate in pulses to remind the wearer to eat. Once a person has consumed food, either a small snack or an entire meal, then they will push either the snack button or the meal button. The snack button replenishes two LED lights worth of “health points” and the meal button replenishes them all.

Ariana Berdy's circuits project. Top view of the felt strawberry cake.
Figure 2: LEDs in Hunger Health Bar; photo by Ariana Berdy

I designed my project to look like a cake. By choosing a whimsical design I wanted to attribute a positive outlook to a project that could easily seem like a nagging chore. The six LEDs are hidden inside the strawberries. The two buttons are installed in the leaf garnish. The snack button is housed in the smaller leaf while the meal button is housed in the large leaf. The Arduino LilyPad and vibrator motor are installed on the bottom of the cake and hidden by the white doily that is attached via Velcro. Two safety pins are installed on the reverse side of the doily so that the wearer may attach the project to their clothing as if it were a brooch or pin.


When creating this project the main problem that had to be troubleshot were the interactions with the buttons. The problem I was having was that pushing the snack button once was relighting all LEDs and not just two. In order to identify the source of this problem I installed statements in the code that would print to the Arduino IDE Serial Monitor every time a button was pushed. By doing this I was able to identify the problem. The problem was that I could not push my button fast enough, so the program interpreted my one press as many. I solved this problem by adding a delay to the code after it receives one button press.

The second problem I had was with the timing of the vibrator motor. To count down and turn off my LEDs I used an imported library called Time. However, using long delays in the code also delays the counting of the timer and makes the timer inaccurate and makes the code unresponsive to button presses. Because my vibrator motor was coded to only vibrate when the last light was lit, I could not use the Time library to turn the motor on and I could not use the delay function to make it work either. My solution was to work with Pulse Width Modulation (PWM). PWM is most commonly used to fade LEDs on and off. I used the same strategy to turn the vibrator motor on, and slowly turn it off again in intervals. The code for this solution operated when only the last LED was lit and would turn the vibrator motor off if one of the buttons was pushed.


One of the most explored concepts that we have discussed in class is the idea that fashion is a social indicator. The reading “Tryhards, Fashion Victims, and Effortless Cool” by Luke Russell especially deals with this concept. The reading talks about the disconnect between the want to be fashionable and the want to make looking fashionable effortless. Russell talks about the phenomenon of being labeled a “tryhard” for trying too hard but failing at the end goal of looking fashionable. Russell goes on to explain many ways in which a person can be labeled as a “tryhard”. The ultimate take-away from this reading, in regards to my project, is the idea that “Every cool person, deep down, cares about how she looks and abhors the social disapproval that comes from being behind the social trend.” (Russell)

The ultimate form of ugly fashion is classic clunky medical wear. Medical wear includes orthotic shoes, hospital gowns, joint braces, slings, compression hosiery, or any garment that serves a specific medical purpose, was designed solely with that purpose in mind, and ignores fashionable aesthetics. These garments for a long time have made people look and feel unattractive and self-conscious. These negative feelings are very similar to Russell’s “tryhard” negativity. Because my project can easily be seen as a type of monitoring medical garment, I did not want it to be associated with self-conscious negative feelings based on design. When designing my project I wanted to remove some of the possible sterility that comes from the “medical” purpose garments by making my project visually appealing and fun to wear.

One of the main reading inspirations for this project came from the article that talked about UV reactive ‘nano-tattoos’ for diabetics. The ‘nano-tattoo’ is outwardly invisible, however it reacts to a solution of sensor molecules to create “biomolecules”. When exposed to UV light the biomolecules shine. The higher the concentration the stronger the shine (Barannikov, 2012).

My project does not explicitly have health benefits past those to be gained by consistent eating. However, my project could easily be modified to help patients with time-sensitive medications to take their prescriptions on time before negative side effects kick in. One of the appeals of the ‘nano-tattoo’ was that it was invisible except when a UV light was shined upon it. The end of the article speculated that patients with this ‘tattoo’ could use their cell phones to generate the UV light. While my project is by no means invisible, it is an attractive and easy to use design.

The last reading that I found inspirational was the Durex Vibrating Underwear. Durex created a smartphone application controlled set of underwear that vibrates when the user’s partner activates the garment. The purpose of the underwear is to promote intimacy in long distance situations (Dicker, 2013). This reading inspired me because the underwear itself is a discrete attention getter that only the wearer feels. I was motivated to choose vibration as my own attention getter, and not sound, partly due to this article and how vibration is a much more personal attention getter that does not advertise itself to other people .

Works Cited

  • Barannikov, A. n.-b. (2012, 5 4). Nano-based treatment for diabetics is set to shine . Retrieved 12 8, 2014, from Nanotechnology World:
  • Dicker, R. (2013, 4 19). Durex Vibrating Underwear, ‘Fundawear,’ Enables Phone Sex Via IPhone App (NSFW VIDEO). Retrieved 12 8, 2014, from The Huffington Post:
  • Russell, L. Tryhards, Fashion Victims, and Effortless Cool” in Fashion: Philosophy for Everyone .
  • Skipping meals can have negatice consequences. (n.d.). Retrieved 12 8, 2014, from Human Kinetics:





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