Nearly 10 years ago, as a dietetic intern with interests in both nutrition and computer programming, Ryan Hartz, MS, RD, CSSD, found himself in a unique position. As he studied for his RD exam, he paged through nutrition textbooks and class notes, "jotting down questions, answers and explanations in my own words." From there, Visual Veggies Software was born. Hartz took his notes and created an RD Practice Exam program he offers as a study guide to nutrition students. "Computer programming began as a hobby and flourished into a great business venture after finding my niche," he says. Most recently, Hartz altered the standard practice exam to meet the needs of a blind nutrition student.
Tell us about your work and how it fulfills a need in your community.
My target population is nutrition students preparing for their upcoming national registration exams to become RDs or DTRs. Students need a great study tool in preparation for the comprehensive registration exam, and I strive to continue improving the software to meet the needs of the students, keeping up-to-date with new topics in the field as well as the testing requirements of the Academy and the CDR.
In April, I received an email from a blind nutrition student who will be taking his registration exam later this year. He wanted to know if he could use the program to study for his upcoming exam. I decided to take on this challenge, and in about a month I altered the practice exam program to meet his unique needs. A visually impaired student can now navigate throughout the whole program with only keystrokes, and all of the questions, answers and explanations are read aloud.
How has your work made a difference in your community?
My study guide software programs have helped so many dietetics students pass their national registration exams, and the programs are used by individual students for home use and also by over 80 colleges and universities across the nation.
What kind of feedback have you received?
I’ve received countless emails, phone calls and Facebook posts from students informing me they’ve successfully passed their registration exams. One story that brings a smile to my face was last year at FNCE®. I had a booth at the Product Marketplace. One student came up to me and told me how thankful she was for my software. What made this interaction so special to me was that she then asked to have her picture taken with me so she could show her friends that she met the creator of the program!
Looking ahead, how would you like to see your project develop or grow?
I have several new projects ahead in mind, still keeping with the focus of helping nutrition students prepare for their exams. Later this year or sometime in 2015, I am hoping to launch the software onto mobile devices.