True innovation
4 Hackathon Prizewinners That Will Blow Your Mind
Free Enterprise Staff | October 13, 2015

Over the past few weeks we’ve told you we’re hosting a hackathon, and we’ve shown you how hackathons are flipping R&D on its head. So, with the Free Enterprise Hackathon set to kick off in four days, what better way to get ready for the big event than by profiling some recent successful hackathons?

Here are a few examples of innovative hackathons that have been held over the past year.

Cleveland’s Inaugural Medical Hackathon

Cleveland, Ohio, held its first-ever hackathon last month, inviting participants to create applications that could help address many of the city’s health care-related issues.

The 200 people who participated in the event were encouraged to utilize health care data to find solutions to some of the problems that have long plagued the city, chief among them discrepancies in life expectancy and rates of chronic disease. The overall winner was the IQ Sensor Solutions team, who created a wearable blood pressure monitoring device, according to the Plain Dealer.

Other products that emerged included a new risk profile that draws on publicly available data to more effectively identify expectant mothers with a heightened risk of developing complications during childbirth.

The Disrupt NY Hackathon

Held annually, this year’s Disrupt NY Hackathon organized by TechCrunch offered hackers a broad mandate: “Come up with a neat, funny, and smart hack in 24 hours.”

Which of the 106 participating teams came out on top? The event’s judges ultimately designated the group behind Witness, a panic button application, as the victor. By hitting the red button that appears after the Witness iPhone app is opened, your phone will automatically call and text your emergency contacts and record your location, camera, and microphone activity, according to TechCrunch.

The event’s second-place prizewinner, Picorico, demonstrated the wide breadth of products to come out of the event. Unlike Witness, Picorico is a hardware device that measures the performance of modern downhill bikes through an open-source telemetry system its inventors developed.

M.I.T. Media Lab’s “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” Hackathon

As we’ve noted, the objective of the Free Enterprise Hackathon is to develop novel ways for measuring the impact businesses have across the U.S. But the concept of a hackathon is fluid, as evidenced by one M.I.T.’s Media Lab put on in 2014.

The goal of the school’s “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” hackathon is pretty self-explanatory: Participants were tasked with improving the traditional breast pump, a medical device whose design has remained largely unchanged over the years.

More than 150 designers, engineers, and health care professionals attended the event, with first prize going to the team behind the Mighty Mom utility belt, a product that the judges described as a “fashionable, discreet, hands-free, wearable pump that automatically logs and analyzes your personal data.”

Yet that was only one of the winning teams to come out of an event that, the Boston Globe notes, continues to exert a major influence—even a year later.

I.B.M.’s Watson Hackathon

I.B.M.’s Watson Hackathon took place over two days earlier this year, with teams working to develop applications using Watson, the company’s cognitive computing technology that gained widespread notoriety after handily beating its human competition on Jeopardy.

After the hackathon’s 36-hour time limit expired, 32 teams presented their apps to the panel of judges, with first place going to LikeMind, an application that relies on location data and Watson’s computing power to match nearby, “likeminded” Twitter users with one another. Also earning recognition was NYC School Finder, which analyzes a student’s personality to more effectively match him or her to public high schools throughout the city. (There are more than 400 public high schools in New York City.)

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