Six weeks of preparation followed by a 60-hour hackathon to design and build working prototypes addressing concrete humanitarian problems: this is the challenge that eight teams accepted when they participated in THE Port hackathon that took place from 14 to 16 October at CERN.
The interdisciplinary teams spent a long weekend building their prototypes in the cosy (and well-equipped) IdeaSquare premises. Responding to the humanitarian challenges selected, the eight teams presented just as many proposals, including a toolkit for obtaining efficient forensic photos; an app to match needs and offers of help arising after a natural disaster; a sonification and gamification device to help the user correctly execute planned exercises without the direct help of the physiotherapist; a combined solution for tracking and stopping counterfeit drugs before they are distributed to patients; a burner that can disarm unexploded bombs safely; a device designed to monitor explosions objectively via the acoustic waves they generate; a new system for disposing of waste in Field-Ready hospitals; and a machine-learning tool designed to analyse information available on the web about, for example, a major incident in order to give humanitarian workers the full picture of what happened.
Each team was able to count on the help of tutors and experts from CERN as well as partners from several non-governmental organisations based in Geneva. On the evening of 16 October, the final event at the Globe was attended by over 200 people and watched live by 180 hackathon enthusiasts.
The success of the hackathon comes as no surprise to people who have experienced it before, but was a shock to first-time participants. “It was my first hackathon and much more than I expected,” says Grace Torrellas, from the counterfeit drug reduction team. “Despite the relatively short interaction the team had during the preparation phase, the magic really sparks when there is face-to-face exchange and collaboration,” she adds.
“A unique aspect of the hackathon is that we all work together towards solving real-world problems with concrete and immediate applications,” confirms Romain Bazile, a third-time participant.
THE Port’s work does not end with the final presentations: “Our goal is to demonstrate the value of fundamental science to society,” says Daniel Dobos, one of the founders of THE Port and a member of the organising team. “We are proud to say that this year’s partners, including the ICRC, Handicap International and the Global Humanitarian Lab, have directly expressed an interest in incubating, accelerating and scaling solutions based on this weekend’s efforts.”
Even if you missed this event, you can still sign up for THE Port’s upcoming events, including UN POP UP Muse on 10 November at the Palais des Nations and the Geneva Global Goals Innovation Day on 24 March 2017. “We will also share news of the upcoming spring hackathons, including the popular Science Hackathon, soon,” adds Daniel.
A recording of the final presentations can be found here. Feel free to contact the teams if you want to contribute to the follow-up of the solution proposed or support them financially.