How NYU Abu Dhabi’s Biggest Hackathon Led Three Faculty to Join the University

As the NYUAD International Hackathon for Social Good holds its 10th annual session, we look back at how previous participants benefited from iterations of the event.

As judges, mentors, and participants, several NYU Abu Dhabi faculty took part in previous iterations of the International Hackathon for Social Good before joining the University. Their experience with the event led many of them to progress their careers and even inspired them to join NYUAD. 

This year’s Hackathon for Social Good will see participants learn about quantum computing and use quantum-based technologies while developing their own solutions and working in cross-disciplinary and diverse teams.

This year’s programming marathon will take place on Wednesday, March 30, to Friday, April 1, 2022. The tenth edition will be hosted in-person and will group students from all over the world into teams to work with the technology. 

Students will be given access to mentors to engage in solution-driven work and use quantum-based technology to make a positive impact on the future of society. Judges will assess the final projects and select winners. This system of support provides participants with access to a breadth of knowledge to grow their skills and progress the education. Here are a few memories from NYUAD faculty reflecting on how the Hackathon influenced changed their careers for the better. 

Farah Shamout:

Farah Shamout, assistant professor of computer engineering and Emerging Scholar, first participated in the Hackathon as a student in 2015 while she was studying to receive her bachelors at NYUAD. She later participated twice as a mentor in following years providing guidance to students and helping the event grow.

She said the Hackathon is unique in many ways. However, its most potent lesson might be found in learning the value of multidisciplinary collaboration and working with diverse skill sets from students with various backgrounds. Her involvement in the Hackathon in previous years showed her the importance of AI and data science and encouraged her to pursue those fields in her post-graduate studies as a Rhodes Scholar. 

“I would highly encourage students to apply because it could be a life changing experience in the sense that it could influence your career choices,” she said.

Khalil Ramadi

Khalil Ramadi, assistant professor of bioengineering, first attended the hackathon as a mentor in 2019, and enjoyed the experience to such an extent that he came back the following year as a judge. As a strong believer in the power of the gathering, Ramadi has organized more than 30 Hackathons in his career, but says that the Hackathon for Social Good is unique in its own right. 

“The NYUAD Hackathon stands out as one of the most international I have attended, with bright minds from across the world. It is a superb way of connecting the NYUAD community with external collaborators and partners,” said Ramadi. 

In fact, Ramadi credits the Hackathon with leading him to join NYUAD and establish his lab, Laboratory for Advanced Neuroengineering and Translational Medicine. He continues to be involved in Hackathons around the world in organizing, supporting, and judging capacities.

Riyadh Baghdadi

Riyadh Baghdadi, assistant professor of computer science, first heard about the Hackathon when he was a student. The student body considered it one of the most prestigious and selective Hackathons in the region. As such, this was his entryway into learning about NYUAD and led him to eventually join the community. 

Having served as a judge in previous years, Riyadh is participating in the program committee for this edition of the Hackathon. Riyadh says seeing the ingenious teamwork and the dedication participants bring to the table in solving some of the region’s most pressing issues really inspires those involved. 

“I think it is one of the best hackathons in the region. It is a great opportunity for students to learn, work on their projects, get to know other students, and have fun. This year in particular, the topic of quantum computing, is highly interesting. The number of applicants exceeded all of our expectations,” he said.

Participants working during previous Hackathons.

Over the last ten years the Annual NYUAD International Hackathon has resulted in the creation of multiple innovations that have contributed successfully to the region’s business operation. NYUAD remains committed to providing a thought-provoking platform that enhances innovation for the benefit of social good in the Arab World, as well as supporting the higher education sector in the UAE. The University’s focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and advanced industries supports the UAE’s 2071 Centennial Plan to diversify and shift to a skills-based knowledge economy. 

Previous innovations resulting from the Annual NYUAD International Hackathon include applications that connect grocery stores with food shoppers to minimize food waste; locate missing refugees; tackle counterfeit medicine; offer affordable translations of texts and increase employment in the Arab World, among others.