By Tatyana Hopkins
George Washington University student-innovators came together this weekend to cultivate innovation in medical technology and solutions as part of the third annual George Hacks Medical Solutions Hackathon.
Hosted by the interdisciplinary student organization George Hacks, the event challenges students to develop working prototypes such as apps, devices, systems processes and business models to problems in the medical field in just 24 hours.
This year, nearly 100 students from across GW’s various schools, as well as a few students from other universities in the area, gathered Saturday to work with expert mentors and technical supplies to create novel solutions to a dozen real-world problem statements presented by healthcare organizations in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
The proposed problem statements included both patient-specific and general systemic issues that affected the function of the organization’s operations. They ranged from enhancing the scheduling process of a chemotherapy room to creating a waterproof cover for the prosthetic leg of a veteran who enjoyed going to the beach.
“We were super impressed with all of the hard work that [students] put in this weekend and we hope that [they] gained valuable experience working on these projects," said Caitlyn Pratt, a junior biomedical engineering student and George Hacks director.
She said the hackathon, which was sponsored by the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, aims to bridge gaps between disciplines and facilitate long-term mentorship relationships for students.
Event sponsors also included the GW Hospital, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and other community partners.
GW President Thomas LeBlanc, who gave closing remarks at the event, said the event supported the university’s increasing commitment to STEM and gave students the opportunity to develop skills they will need to address issues across all fields.
“Through your efforts with George Hacks, you are harnessing the strength of interdisciplinary teams to solve complex healthcare challenges,” he said. “And by collaborating across disciplines, you are leading the way in the team-based approach that the field of innovation requires today. Breakthrough scientific discoveries and inventions always come from the synergy of people who work together.”
After working through the night, the student teams showcased their pitches on Sunday and went through two rounds of judging from GW professors and sponsor representatives. The top three teams received prizes.
- The first-place team, Heyo Solutions, was composed of biomedical engineering students Evan Lindeman and Yahya Aliyu; Huzeyfa Telha, a computer science student; and Oscar Southwell, a mechanical engineering student. They won for their pitch of a system that would create a cleaner and safer hospital environment for immunocompromised cancer patients by forcing handwashing through a radio-enabled wristband system that restricts movement around the medical center until the wearer uses an automated hand sanitizer machine.
- The second-place team, Instafusion, composed of public health students Aqsha Nur and Waqas Haque and mechanical engineering student Huma Ilyas Alexandra Kaplan, placed for their pitch of algorithm that would optimize treatment scheduling at chemotherapy infusion centers and provide data analytics of the infusions.
- The third-place team, Smart Stool, was composed of mechanical engineering students Yasser Althuwaini and Phoenix Price; Johnathan Lee, a computer science student; and Cordelia Scales, a biomedical engineering student. They won for their pitch of an ergonomic height-adjustable step stool for surgeons.
Spot prizes for best implementation of hardware and best pitch were also given.
Team TechStep, composed of biomedical engineering students Michael Degaga, Ibraheem Farooq, and Donivyn Cruz, won in the hardware category for an electronic surgeon step stool.
Team JACE—biomedical engineering students Claire Allison, Jenna Kahwash, Abby Klink and Emilie LeMieux—won the pitch category for an app and medication wallet that would help adolescent patients adhere to their medication regimens.
Lex McCusker, GW’s director of student entrepreneurship programs, encouraged the hackathon teams to continue their work by attending OIE events, working with the GW Mentors-in-Residence program and applying to compete in the GW New Venture Competition before the Feb. 5 deadline.
“Keep going,” he said. “GW provides you a wealth of resources to take what you've done today and go out and have some really great impact in the world.”