New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) hosted computer science students, academics, and technology experts from around the globe to participate in the first ever International Hackathon for the Social Good in the Arab World, in Abu Dhabi. During the three-day event, more than 50 students worked in teams to create mobile and web applications designed to tackle real-world social issues in the region. The event concluded yesterday with a public event featuring final presentations of the developed applications to a panel of judges.
The first prize went to Hamza Al Kofahi and Ahmad Malkawi, students from the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), for their KineTherapy application. The duo previewed a demo of a "physical therapy game" using Microsoft's Kinect technology to monitor a patient's actual movements against an animated guide directing the therapy program. The application was developed during the three-day computer programming hackathon to provide a fun, effective, and cost-saving tool to address physical therapy needs in the Arab world.
In second place, Max Stoller and Tengchao Zhou, students from NYU New York, teamed up with Monir Abu Hilal from Princess Sumaya University for Technology (PSUT) in Jordan, to develop OpenMena, a web-based resource designed to provide government data in an accessible format for computer programmers. The team noted that while extensive data from UAE government sources is available online, the current excel sheet format for downloading this information is not the easiest format to use for programmers. OpenMena, which can be accessed online at OpenMena.org, provides a platform for a dynamic data feed that can be used by developers to create relevant applications that leverage this open data.
Third place went to The Makindu Children's Center Database Project, which created an application designed for NGOs to increase efficiency in submitting records and reports to donors. The team comprised: Katy Blumer, Alice Tessen, Ali Taqi, Nishant Mohanchandra, and Halim Lagrid.
The NYUAD Hackathon was designed to foster a culture of innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship in computer science, while presenting students with the opportunity to interact with international technology experts, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Students had the opportunity to learn about new practices in software development and the basics of entrepreneurship while being mentored by more than 30 guest speakers. Mentors included faculty members of participating universities, and professionals from organizations such as Yahoo!, Grameen Foundation, LinkedIn, Microsoft Corporation, and the World Bank.
Jay Bhalla, a World Bank Consultant from Kenya, said: "The NYUAD 'Hackathon' gave me a great opportunity not only to interact with a respected learning institution but to interact with students of diverse cultures and to see the growing talent pool in the Middle East. As a team lead of the OpenMena team, I was very proud of the idea, speed of execution and professionalism of the team. There were able to execute a brilliant idea with little supervision."
In addition to 14 students participating from NYUAD, other UAE institutions represented at the event were Zayed University, Abu Dhabi University, and Masdar Institute. International participants also attended from higher education institutions across Algeria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Syria, and the US.
"In our increasingly connected world, application development is a tremendously impactful way to empower people with the tools and resources they need to overcome social challenges," said Sana Odeh, NYU clinical associate professor of computer science, a member of the NYU Abu Dhabi Affiliated Faculty, and the event's organizer. "Hosting a 'Hackathon' creates a powerful forum to stimulate creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and greater collaboration. I have been very impressed with the range of inventive and marketable ideas that have resulted from this event."