Competing against health care professionals from across the industry, a team of high schoolers took home prize money at the fifth Yale Healthcare Hackathon.
The hackathon provided a venue for more than 200 students, clinicians, engineers and health care leaders to develop technological solutions to current issues in medicine and health care. Participants flocked to the School of Medicine from all over the world, representing dozens of businesses and universities. The hackathon kicked off Friday and ended with an award ceremony on Sunday afternoon.
“Many people don’t realize just how much they can accomplish over the course of a three-day weekend,” said Jean Zheng GRD ’13, one of the organizers of the event. “We want to be this huge community-building event, where people come together to see what challenges are facing the health care system right now and what can you accomplish over one weekend to start to fix what’s broken.”
Organized by the Yale Center for Biomedical Innovation and Technology in partnership with startup accelerator 4Catalyzer, this year’s hackathon centered on the theme of “Artificial Intelligence Enabling Medicine.”
During the hackathon, participants worked on projects associated with the theme and presented their ideas at the end of the three-day period. Despite a heavy presence from doctors, industry experts and academics, a team comprised solely of five high school students took home one of the grand prizes.
Team members said they were initially nervous to be surrounded by the highly educated and much older crowd. The students recalled being asked whether there were any MDs on their team and joked that they first had to get their high school diplomas.
Their project, entitled Lab Score, was conceived by high school student Rohan Regulapati. After working in his mother’s clinic, Regulapati noticed that many patients had trouble interpreting their lab results, so he came up with the idea to simplify complicated diagnoses by using a 1-10 scale. He enlisted the help of other students with expertise in clinical work and programming for the hackathon.
Now, with the help of mentors and the $2,500 it received in prize money from 4Catalyzer, the team plans to create a working prototype to put its idea into practice.
Participants first gathered together on Friday night for dinner and keynote speeches, which featured Faculty Director of MIT Hacking Medicine Zen Chu, IBM Watson Health’s Michael Fahey and CIO of Roivant Sciences Daniel Rothman.
The various categories for the hackathon were introduced on Saturday morning. They called for projects involving ultrasound device Butterfly IQ, which was created by one of 4Catalyzer’s companies; machine learning through data sets; the use of artificial intelligence in space; or any idea focused on the patient and health care system, according to Michelle Lim ’20, an event organizer.
CBIT organizers sought to attract participants with skills and experience in the fields of clinical practice, data science, programming and law, Zheng said. In the early hours of the hackathon, the attendees formed small groups and began working to address one of the broad challenges posed by the sponsors.
Many of the proposed projects were in the areas of telemedicine or machine learning, reflecting a emphasis on tech solutions in health care that was championed by the keynote speakers at the event. Early Saturday afternoon, groups began work on their projects, and many participants chose to work through the night and into Sunday morning.
“Sometimes, the best ideas come when you have limited time to come up with a solution,” said Zobia Chunara ’16, the hackathon operations tsar. “Here, teams churn out ideas with little editing, and before you know it, you have the basis of an excellent solution that can be honed and built into a minimum viable product.”
Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of 4Catalyzer Jonathan Rothberg GRD ’91 was Sunday’s keynote speaker, and he shared his experiences in medical startups and presented an innovative user-friendly ultrasound device, Butterfly IQ.
After Rothberg’s talk, the 18 participating teams presented their pitches, sharing their efforts from the weekend. These solutions targeted issues ranging from mental health to transparency in medicine to costs of self-monitoring health devices.
“This hackathon really creates an environment that facilitates new brainstorming connections with people who you wouldn’t have normally connected with, and I felt drawn to that,” said Obinna Anosike, a participant at the event.
The event was also a great opportunity to network, said Yekaterina Gabova, a participant from the University of Bridgeport. She added that part of the value of an event like this is that attendees come from a wide variety of background and disciplines but, over the course of 24 hours, can come together and form a team.
The teams were judged on health impact, innovation, business model, product and presentation. In addition to a $2,500 prize from 4Catalyzer, three other cash prizes funded by the event’s sponsors were awarded at the end of the weekend.
The team Osteonauts — which developed medical treatments that could be used in space — won the $2,500 prize from the Consortia for Improving Medicine with Innovation and Technology. The $1,000 prize from Roivant was awarded to EyeAI, which created a device that can analyze a patient’s medical information by looking into the retina, and Bene, a team targeting mental health, brought home the $1500 prize from the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale.