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Hacking for humanity at CERN’s global Webfest

The second online edition of the Webfest brought together people from 63 countries to tackle challenges like wildfires, domestic violence and educational inequality


CERN Webfest 2021
(Image: CERN)

The Webfest is CERN’s annual hackathon based on open web technologies. This year, on the weekend of 21-22 August, participants from 63 countries formed small teams online and used their combined skills and knowledge to develop innovative prototype apps, hardware and other tools.

The theme for this year’s Webfest was “science, society, sustainability”, with participants encouraged to work on projects that address the UN Sustainable Development Goals. To this end, teams at the Webfest created an application to warn of wildfires, a concealed alarm system for victims of domestic violence, a directory for online learning materials, a website providing clear and accurate information about nuclear energy, a health app that identifies nutrient deficiencies, an AI system to aid with studying and much more. Information on all 22 innovative projects can be found on the Webfest website.

World map showing the countries where participants came from
Participants from 63 countries across the globe joined the hackathon. (Image: CERN, gluoNNet)

“Focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals, the participants in this year’s CERN Webfest showed a great commitment to using their skills to improve our world,” says Charlotte Warakaulle, Director for International Relations at CERN. “Their creativity and innovation has not only generated new practical solutions to societal challenges, but also inspired new ways of working together.”

Each year, one project is selected as the overall Webfest winner. The eight judges at this year’s event selected a project that uses crowdsourced designs and 3D printing to create tools for disabled people. These tools are particularly aimed at helping people with conditions like ectrodactyly and syndactyly (malformations of the hands and feet) to use everyday objects. During the Webfest, the team was able to create a prototype attachment that helps those with these conditions to pick up drinking bottles.

“For me, the Webfest was more than a hackathon; it was a portal for meeting new people from various backgrounds and learning about their journeys,” says Komal Kedarnath, a mechanical engineering student from India and a member of the winning team. “I had the best time during the networking sessions, where I talked to people from 10 different time zones about how they got here. It was amazing!”      

Noor Afshan Fathima, a technical student in the CERN IT department, presented the winning idea at the end of the Webfest. Her teammates were Komal Kedarnath and Noor K. Kubra from India, and Mehdi Golbaz from Iran. Mehdi Golbaz is currently a CERN openlab summer student.

In addition to these networking sessions, the Webfest offered a fun CERN-themed quiz, an online exercise session and several how-to workshops focused on practical skills, such as how to give good presentations and how to create short videos. This diverse programme was made possible thanks to the Webfest’s supporters: CERN openlab, gluoNNet, RemotelyGreen, Veertly, Citizen Cyberlab, Crowd4SDG, THE Port, CERN Alumni, Quantum FutureX, AI Crowd and CERN Fitness Club.

Given the global interest once again shown in the event, the organisers plan to run the hackathon online again next year.


To find out more, read the full version of this article on the CERN openlab website. Also, you can still watch all the public Webfest sessions – including the closing awards ceremony – on YouTube.