College of Health and Human Performance

Sheryl Flynn (Ph.D. ’01)

HHP alumna, Gator100 honoree, founder and CEO of Blue Marble Game Company

Sheryl Flynn (Ph.D. ’01)

Big ideas often come from an unusual starting point — a very true statement for Sheryl Flynn, HHP alumna, Gator100 honoree and founder and CEO of Blue Marble Game Company. Blue Marble develops mobile “gamified” assessments and treatment applications that track human performance. It’s an innovative company that is changing the face of rehabilitation and wellness for its patients.

The idea of Blue Marble stemmed from Sheryl’s youth as a child who was not interested in reading. While she didn’t want to read traditional children’s books, she was always interested in the National Enquirer in the grocery store check-out line. Her mother noticed that she was intrigued with the content and bought a copy. They spent that night reading it together, cover to cover.

“It was my mother’s insight from all those years ago that inspired the work I do today,” recalls Sheryl. “I realized that I would be motivated to read short, other-worldly, outrageous stories of imaginary characters doing unbelievable acts. Engagement, motivation, encouragement and freedom to fail are all foundational tenets of my company’s video games,” said Sheryl.

Blue Marble’s web-based data visualization dashboard offers clinicians and administrators actionable information to improve care delivery and improve adherence, while being cost effective. The Blue Marble platform has apps that range from assessment and treatment of ADHD to identification of fall risk and exercises to reduce fall risk.

“Blue Marble software works because we know that people really do enjoy games. They get into a flow and don’t even realize how much time has passed. Blue Marble’s tele-therapeutic platform offers a challenge both cognitively and physically — sometimes without the player even realizing it,” explains Sheryl.

Sheryl’s path from being an HHP student to founder of Blue Marble was not a straight line. She began her physical therapy career in the New York City school system and soon became a staff physical therapist at Beth Israel Hospital on the neurology floor. The more she worked with her patients, the more she wanted to learn about their impairments and what the causes and most effective treatments were.

“My graduate work led to a deeper sense of awe, wonderment, admiration and respect for the nervous system. I wanted to learn all I could about the nervous system’s inner workings,” she says.

Sheryl’s idea to integrate game theory with physical therapy stemmed from research work she was doing on rats and a walk through a shopping mall where she saw children playing with EyeToy, a PlayStation game. Her inquisitive mind at work, she wondered if this type of exercise program could be an enriched environment for humans similar to the enriched environments they created in the lab for rats to aid in their recovery. This serendipitous walk through the mall changed her career path.

Her research using EyeToy was one of the first studies published related to the use of off-the-shelf video games for adults with neurological impairments. Launching her new career meant a move across the county to where people develop video games — California. There she began working at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

During this time she realized that the games needed to be developed from the ground up for rehabilitation.

After contacting several large game publishers to see if they had any interest in “games for health” and finding none, she took matters into her own hands and launched Blue Marble Game Company — soon to be newly branded as Blue Marble Health whose “products improve health one player at a time!”

Sheryl has many great memories from the University of Florida, but the best is the lifelong friends that she made through her undergraduate and graduate experiences. Amazingly, many were together for over 10 years in pursuit of their academic goals.

“I became a ‘thirty-something’ while at UF. It was a very important phase of my life. Many of the friends I met in Gainesville are still in touch, and they are very precious to me. UF is what brought us together and where I started my rewarding career path. I couldn’t be more grateful,” says Sheryl.

[Profile added in 2016]

READ MORE about HHP alumni