College Hackathon Generates Unbelievable Results – ORT Braude Students Devise Creative Solutions for the Medical World

ORT Braude students once again proved their creative ingenuity at the Medical Engineering Hackathon that was held on campus, November 7-8, 2019. This two-day event aimed to find practical solutions to previously unsolved problems currently plaguing hospitals in Israel and around the world. The participating students were divided into teams, where they worked to successfully surmount the various complicated challenges, presenting their innovative solutions at the end of the event. The Hackathon began on Thursday morning with welcoming words from College President Professor Arie Maharshak; Noaz Bar Nir, outgoing CEO of Clalit Health Services; and Dr. Ziv Paz, Deputy Director and Chief Innovation Officer of the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya.

During the Hackathon, five challenges were presented by the staff of five different hospitals. The first challenge, raised by Professor Yoel Donchin of Hebrew University, formerly the director of the Patient Safety Unit at Ein Kerem Hospital – Hadassah Medical Center, was to identify patients in a safe, error-free manner. Prof. Donchin presented cases in which patient misidentification had led to grave errors. The second challenge was to facilitate the recovery of leg surgery patients by measuring the weight a patient places on his leg following surgery. This challenge was presented by Basel Hanna, Director of Physiotherapy at Ziv Medical Center, Safed, who spoke about the need for an inexpensive, user-friendly device. The third challenge was to produce a method for continuously monitoring a patient’s location during hospitalization and providing the patient and his family with daily information about the patient’s examinations and about when they will happen. This challenge was presented by Dr. Ziv Paz. He talked about intolerable situations in which hospitalized patients are forced to wait for extended periods of time without knowing why or what to expect. The fourth challenge was to deliver uninterrupted patient monitoring without the need for connecting wires or invasive devices. This was raised by Dr. Amir Alimi of the English Hospital in Nazareth. He described the wasted resources involved in continuously monitoring patients’ vital signs and, conversely, the inherent danger when patients are not continuously monitored. The fifth and final challenge was to develop a robot that could dispense patients’ medications according to their prescriptions, and was presented by Professor Arnon Blum, Director of Research and Academia at Padeh Medical Center, Poriya, in Tiberias. Prof. Blum explained the accuracy and resource savings that using such a robot would allow.

“Dozens of people participated in the Hackathon, the vast majority of whom were ORT Braude students from various departments: Software Engineering, Information Systems, Industrial Engineering & Management, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Optical Engineering, and Biotechnology Engineering,” said Dr. Nirit Gavish, ORT Braude’s Head of the Center for Engineering Education & Entrepreneurship.” At the beginning of the evening, seven multidisciplinary teams, comprising a total of 44 participants, came together to try to conquer the various challenges. Each team was tasked with acquiring a deep understanding of each problem and its related causes, forming a solution, and then creating an engineering prototype, including a mechanical and electronic demo illustrating the solution.”

Approximately 50 experts, over and above those who had presented the challenges, were available to mentor the teams at all times. These mentors included specialists in the fields of medicine, engineering, human engineering, entrepreneurship, psychology, software, and more. Many of the college’s lecturers also joined in to aid the teams as mentors. The strenuous work was broken up by a fascinating guest lecture on the “Innovations in Medicine” presented by entrepreneur and researcher Professor Rafi Beyar, former director of Rambam Health Care Campus. In his lecture, Prof. Beyar reviewed the developments that have been made in cardiac medicine – from the creation of the first catheter in 1929, through all the subsequent stent types for blood vessels, to the valves that are currently being implanted in hearts without the need for open heart surgery. Some of these advancements were developed in Israel, at Rambam Hospital and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Israel is second in the world (after the US) in the number of startups that specialize in the medical field, most of them developing medical instruments and equipment.

But let’s return to the Hackathon: on Friday morning, the teams presented their solutions to a team of judges that included Prof. Arie Maharshak; Deputy ORT Braude President Professor Sarit Sivan; and Dr. Yariv Marmor, Head of Industrial Engineering & Management. Additional judges included three senior representatives from the medical world. After a summary of the judges’ decisions, four teams advanced to the final stage, taking advantage of the time remaining before noon to consult with the mentors and improve their presentations.

The tension reached its peak Friday afternoon, during the grand finale in which the solutions were presented and the winners chosen. Two teams tied for first place, winning the NIS 10,000 prize. The first was FingerPrint, for their Fringer Registration & Identification invention, created by Software Engineering and Information Systems students. Their innovative two-stage system was designed to recognize patients using their fingerprints and a smart bracelet. The Sili Feet team, consisting of Electrical Engineering, Software Engineering, and Biotechnology Engineering students, tied for first place for their development of a silicone sole fitted with sensors that can precisely detect and measure the amount of weight a patient exerts on his leg. The NIS 5,000 second prize was awarded to the MIS team with members from the Software Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering departments. They developed a system for scheduling physician visits and presenting hospitalization information to the patient using an RFID reader installed in various inpatient departments. Third prize winners, Smart Sleeve, made up of Electrical Engineering and Software Engineering students, received NIS 3,000 for their patient-worn sleeve that continuously measures vital signs without disturbing the patient. At the event’s conclusion, Dr. Paz thrilled participants by announcing that the inventions created at the Hackathon would be tested in the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya to determine their viability.

Despite working without a break, and in some cases almost without any sleep at all over the Hackathon’s intense two days, students and mentors still enjoyed a very pleasant and supportive atmosphere in which they were treated to a bounty of delicious food, sports activities, branded shirts and mugs, late-night sandwiches, and even ice cream. The extraordinary event was enthusiastically praised all round; the students described it as an educational and memorable experience, and the organizing team, led by Rami Gazit, head of the college’s Center for Engineering Education & Entrepreneurship, promised to hold it again next year. Well done everyone!