On the 10-11th of March, #HackMed18 took place at the University of Sheffield. HackMed is a medical focused hackathon that aims to bring together hackers, dreamers, and doers to solve problems related to humanity’s elementary need, health.
Organised by the MedTech Sheffield society, this was the second instalment of the medical hackathon. The first hackathon took place in April last year and was a great starting ground for a growing society and event.
Hacka-what? Not sure what a hackathon is? Let me very quickly take you to one.
This year, The University of Sheffield Enterprise (USE) were proud sponsors of the hackathon which saw over 50 students from across the world take part to come up with ways to seal the cracks in healthcare, medicine and scientific research. Alongside USE, sponsors include Pfizer Healthcare Hub, Oxford Nanopore, Nexmo and GitHub. The latter three as returning sponsors! HackMed also partnered with Major League Hacking (MLH) – a global student hackathon community.
In addition to sponsors and partners, further support was given from experts in their field including Tania Allard (a Research Software Engineer at The University of Sheffield), Matthew Parker (Lead Bioinformatician at Sheffield Diagnostic Genetics Service) and Dr. Dennis Wang (Lecturer in Bioinformatics).
Welcome to HackMed18!
The event kicked off Saturday morning with an introduction by the team, sponsors, and mentors followed by workshops which ranged from a background on some biological processes to using APIs and GitHub for hackers’ final project.
Glancing over at the room, you wouldn’t have guessed that attendees didn’t know each other. Almost instantly you could hear chatter across the room: laser-focused on collaborating to create something impactful. The friendly environment created at Hackathons invite this collaboration to not only take place but to thrive.
Once teams were formed and hackers were fuelled with their first free meal of the weekend (the free food and goodies is definitely something that drew me to hackathons), hacking began!
Teams had 24 hours to create something that would potentially help revolutionarise healthcare and medical research forever.
Caring for everyone was a priority
…as you’d expect from a medical hackathon.
Throughout the weekend, hackers were encouraged to take breaks away from their laptop and not to stay up all night if they couldn’t. A meditation and yoga session was hosted for those who wanted to take a break from the coding and idea generation.
Bio-Engineering student at The University of Sheffield, Linh Nguyen mentioned that the session inspired her to continue the habit of mindfulness.”I actually started meditation again after the session because I remembered how fun and relaxing it is from the session!”
It turns out you get a lot from these hackathons – not just learning how to code, eating free food, meeting new people, building impactful things but also picking up some new habits – like mindfulness. Who knew?
The final outcome
Hacking finished! You know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun.
In just 24 hours, hackers produced some tremendously incredible work that would make anyone optimistic about the future of the tech and health space.
The projects created ranged from empowering patients to take control of their health data, using tech as a tool to remind patients to take medicine to bringing awareness of doctors and clinicians health.
All the exciting HackMed projects can be found on Devpost here.
Interdisciplinary work is key
With inclusivity at the heart of MedTech Sheffield’s priorities (because this is where innovation begins and flourishes), 56 hackers joined HackMed with academic backgrounds (both undergraduate and postgraduate students) from a STEM background and backgrounds in humanities (e.g. Politics, Finance). The event also had 41% female students in attendance!
“I thought HackMed 2018 was a huge success – we had a great mix of people from Sheffield and further away from different backgrounds and different ages. Many of the participants had no prior coding experience but they still produced impressive projects at the end and clearly must have learned a lot of technical skills in the process. I’m sure many people will have gone away from the event having gone from being nervous about coding to seriously considering taking further coding courses or working towards a job in the area, and meeting like-minded people for possibly the first time, which is a potentially life-changing outcome for them.” – Tim Freeman, Life Sciences Lead at MedTech Sheffield.
Tzen Szen, Founder of MedTechSheffield and Lead Organiser comments: “The event went well this year and I’m very pleased that we got to build on top of what we achieved last year. It continues to provide value to our attendees, sponsors, and mentors. Especially for the attendees, they learnt something new from stepping out from their comfort zones. Computer Science and engineering students learnt more about pain points in medicine and healthcare. Those from a Life Sciences background discovered what it took to build software. Since co-founding the society, I personally learnt a lot about building strong teams, enterprise sales, fundraising, and marketing.”
Here’s a quick video summary of the highlights of #HackMed18! Video filmed and edited by Clark Narvas.