Camping, hacking and launching new magic with Propeller Health

Every Fall, Propeller gets together for a couple of days at Camp Wandawega to play, reflect and get better as a team. Since we’re scattered across a couple of offices, it’s the only time we all come together at the same time and in the same location. It’s a treat to watch the team evolve and build better relationships as the result of this time together.

We cook together, swim and canoe, play kubb and roast marshmallows together. It’s good old fashioned family time at a fun campground in Southeast Wisconsin. One of my personal favorites is Barcamp night in which, tribemates share stories and presentations on something their passionate about. Everything from “what it’s like living on a submarine” to “a day in the life of a Propeller sensor event”. It’s an amazing showcase of how bright and talented the Propeller team is.

Wandawega Launch

“Each year, we return to Camp Wandawega to recommit ourselves to creating a company no one else can build,” — David Van Sickle

This year, we decided to do something new and I had an absolute ball. We released a public API to Propeller’s asthma forecasting service, built a marketing campaign and had a hackathon where we all built example products on top of it. Today, that work was made public and branded as Air by Propeller.

There is some terrific technical work that runs behind the curtain to make the API service available and Propeller is uniquely positioned to build and share this service. Since we have millions of days of asthma activity (the good days and the bad days for patients), we can build very powerful environmental models for predicting when days may be difficult for individuals. We’ve taken that model and wrapped it in a simple API so now anyone can access the asthma forecast for a location or a bounded, geographic box in the U.S.

Builders gonna build

We have a bias toward construction, building and prototyping at Propeller. That shined through at Wandawega when we all gathered under the big tent for a hackathon. We spent nearly a full day developing new services that utilized the asthma forecast API.

An exceptionally ambitious activity for one day, not everything landed on its feet. But that’s ok. The projects gave us an opportunity to work in different roles and collaborate with teammates we don’t normally work with. We had a project manager deploy an app using IFTTT. We had account managers writing marketing copy and the hardware team… well, the hardware team was building glowing orbs!

By the end of the day, we had branding for the new service — now referred to as Air by Propeller — and a website that describe its benefits. The product teams also had enough for demos. Collectively, we built an amazing assortment of products that put the asthma forecast to work.

  • An email & SMS subscription service that notifies you every day if the forecast is bad.
  • Voice interfaces for both Amazon Alexa and Google Home
  • An IFTTT service that can be connected to other services like IoT lightbulbs and Facebook Messenger. During demos, the team built an IFTTT applet on stage that started one engineer’s washing machine when the forecast was bad. Useful? Of course not, but endlessly entertaining.
  • An embeddable web widget that shows the forecast for the browser’s current location.
  • A glowing orb that visualizes the asthma forecast.
  • Open source SDKs for Node and Python

The reason we shared this service though is to see what others can build with it. So have at it! You can find the docs on our website and most of our project work is open source on Github. Enjoy!

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