On Friday, Nov. 15, students gathered to solve global health issues with technology at the Global Health Hackathon, the first event of its kind hosted by the University of Connecticut’s Global Health Spaces On Campus (GloHSOC).
After gathering at Werth Tower and participating in a mixer and opening ceremony, students formed teams and spent the rest of the night and the following day brainstorming ideas, developing products and creating pitches. Each team’s objective was to create a product they could show at the end of the nearly 24-hour hacking period.
The event’s theme was the changing climate and its effect on global health issues. For Aditi Dubey, a third-semester computer science and engineering major and participant in the Hackathon, this was a motivating factor to take part in the event. Dubey’s team spent the night developing a social media app centered around waste to promote better recycling habits.
“The idea of our climate, the world, global health, it all ties in,” Dubey said. “I think it’s important for us as the current generation to be able to go ahead and do something about the environment. Coming here and trying to create a solution is really important.”
The event finished up with a pitch competition, in which each team presented their ideas to a panel of judges. The top team was awarded with $750, with the second and third teams earning $500 and $250, respectively.
Rohan Parikh, a third-semester computer science and engineering major, was part of Team Beacon, which won the top prize. They developed a device that records the amount of resources a shelter has during the aftermath of a natural disaster.
“We created a web app called Beacon,” Parikh explained. “Basically what it does is it collects about shelters near you even if the internet or wifi is down. During natural disasters, there’s a lot of times when telecommunications goes down, so our app was basically aiming to solve that problem by creating a network of devices at each shelter that makes its own pseudo-internet that helps people access the locations of different shelters in their time of need.”
In total, eight groups competed at the event. They developed products such as a program to help predict the spread of wildfires and a policy to subsidize recycling.
Amisha Paul, a third-semester physiology and neurobiology major with a global health minor and executive director of GloHSOC, said she was pleased with how the event went.
“[The participants] all came up with really innovative projects that were very interdisciplinary and drew on multiple different aspects of environment and global health,” Paul said. “From that perspective, this was a very successful event because it did foster innovation in global health.”
Paul’s favorite part of the event was the sense of collaboration that grew over the evening.
“It fostered a very collaborative spirit, and not just within the groups,” Paul said. “You saw different groups bouncing ideas off of each other and helping each other. Especially as the night got longer and longer, you just saw more of that interaction.”
Paul said GloHSOC plans on holding this event annually, in addition to the Global Health Symposium the club holds every spring.
“GloHSOC will hold two primary events every year. In the fall, we will host this Global Health Hackathon. In the spring, we’ll host our Global Health Symposium.”
Paul said next year the event will hopefully have a new theme.
“This will become an annual event that every year will have a different focus. This year it’s environment, next year it might be something else, but it’ll always connect to global health in some way.”
Grace McFadden is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.