NHLBI honors students for interactive book on sickle cell disease

Zoe Sekyonda, a second-year student pursuing her PhD in biomedical engineering, was among a team of students who captured second-place honors in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) Hope for Sickle Cell Disease Challenge. Also on the team were Cleveland Institute of Art students Grace Schlemmer (captain) and Kerstyn Gay.

The students won for their digital book project, “My Super Cells and Me!” The story is told through the eyes of superheroes living with sickle cell disease who use their powers to better cope with their illness and battle stigmas while living life to the fullest.

The book presents simple-to-understand scientific information about sickle cell disease, with animation and interactive elements designed to appeal to middle and high school students. While the book is helpful for anyone interested in knowing more about sickle cell disease, its main purpose is to encourage adolescents living with the disease and empower them to have aspirations and live a life of optimism.
The students were guided by faculty mentors Olabimpe Olayiwola, research assistant in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Umut Gurkan, Warren E. Rupp Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and Amma Owusu-Ansah, clinical instructor, pediatric hematologist/oncologist.