Hackers wanted: Local hackathon offers experience and networking opportunity

By in Sports & Health

Med.Hack(+) is a design competition in which individuals with diverse educations and professions come together to develop technologies that could potentially solve health-care problems. They organize this event each year as an opportunity for students to not only work on solutions but also make connections for their career.

Medical technology is widely used to treat disease and diagnose patients, and the hackathon, which runs from Sept. 22-24, will see University of Saskatchewan students working alongside health-care, technology and business specialists. The event will take place in the Atrium and the Concourse at Innovation Place to create potential solutions to current problems with health-care systems through the innovative use of technology.

Adam McInnes, MD, a second-year graduate student in biomedical engineering and co-chair of Med.Hack(+), discusses his goals for the hackathon.

“One [goal] is to get a lot of people to attend. And I am still hopeful that, somewhere along the way, we are going to break our 150 people [goal]… And the second goal is that, hopefully, some of these ideas can go forward to do something… Every year, I am hopeful that we see not only solutions being developed but that something actually happens with these solutions,” McInnes said.

The hackathon brings together people with different skills and skill levels. Anyone who thinks they can collaborate and contribute to technological developments is welcome to participate. Registration can be done through the event’s website, medhack.ca. Just as members of the One Health spectrum are needed, so are engineers, students with legal experience, software specialists, business specialists and marketing specialists.

McInnes reinforces this idea of mutual collaboration and complementation.

“We need people who can mentor people. We need people who know how to build stuff, people who know what the problems are and people who know how to take these ideas and turn them into something [tangible],” McInnes said.

Although this event is open to the general public, Med.Hack(+) encourages university students to participate because of the experiences and skills they will gain, a fact McInnes explains further.

“We think there are a lot of values and a lot of opportunities for [students]… Here’s an alternative to get some real-world experience, put yourself out there in front of potential employers and show you actually have some experience in taking what you’ve learned and putting [it] into a real-world application,” McInnes said.

Certainly, the hackathon will benefit participants, but some students may still hesitate to take part if they doubt their knowledge and skills, an issue that McInnes addresses.

“You may not think you know a lot. You may not think you can contribute much, but you’d be surprised what skills you have and what you can actually achieve, if you put your mind to it,” McInnes said. “Here’s an opportunity to connect with people outside your own profession and figure out how your skills complement theirs, how you can all work together to drive innovation in health care. You are gaining experience [and] you are learning how to work with people.”

According to McInnes, the participation of students in the competition shows the value of the advances made at the U of S and in the province in general.

“[The hackathon is] helping to grow the community and to show what we can do here at the U of S,” McInnes said. “We have the ambition, we have the capabilities here in Saskatchewan to do amazing things. These kinds of hackathons help to create the presence or … demonstrate the mentality of what we are really capable of doing here in Saskatchewan.”

With these hackathons, McInnes advocates for technological advances in medicine that can be made from connections between the fields of medicine and technology.

“We need a way to connect health-care professionals with people who understand technology and help drive that innovation as we go forward, so that we can make these medical advances.”

Gabriel Siriany Linares

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor