A college student whose soldier dad was having trouble sleeping after experiencing combat and his friends are helping veterans with a new app that tracks their sleep.
Macalester College senior Tyler Skluzacek and his team created the smartwatch app to track heart rate and other movements that can predict when veterans experience night terrors.
The 21-year-old said that he was inspired to create the app by his father, an Iraq war veteran.
Skluzacek was in the sixth grade when his father was deployed for a year to Iraq.
"Your dad just disappearing for a year and coming back a little bit different…I have a real personal connection to the PTSD problem," Tyler told NBC affiliate KARE.
His father, Sgt. First Class Patrick Skluzacek, is a former convoy commander who now suffers from night terrors and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"At three in the morning all of a sudden, BAM, I'm startled awake," Sgt. Skluzacek told KARE.
Wanting to help his father, Tyler and his friends Damola, Sarah, Brian and Sravya, entered a computer programming contest, called HackDC. His team, called "The Cure," spent thirty-six hours writing code, and created an app for smartwatches that they named "myBivy."
"Bivy" is short for "bivouac," a military term for a safe place to sleep.
The app tracks sleeping patterns for soldiers and searches for symptoms of the onset of panic attacks. The app will then use sound or vibrations "to disrupt that or take them out of the deep sleep but keep them asleep."
"It needs to learn how to stop a sleep terror without ever waking up a soldier," the young Skluzacek told NBC News on Thursday.
In the HackDC competition, myBivy earned the top prize of $1500. Tyler said he and his team currently have one completely functional prototype on the Pebble Time smartwatch and Android smartphone. The group is raising money on Kickstarter to develop the app for wider use and hope to start clinical testing early next year.
They hope to use the data from their testing to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Tyler said.
The fundraising page has raised more than $7,000 so far, and Tyler said he hopes to use the funds to improve the app and provide support for the iPhone as well as other types of smartwatches.
"The goal is to have the app released between March and May," he said.
Skluzacek said he and his team are excited and overwhelmed by all the support his app is getting.
"I've had doctors and psychiatrists from across the country flooding my inbox with advice," he said.
The group hopes that the app will eventually be on every veteran's wrist.
"My dad's actually wearing his to bed," he said.