“[Students] are our superpower…We can combine the knowledge and technology that evolves anywhere in the world and apply it here,” said Dr. ElHajj.
Twenty-nine AUB students competed in a hackathon titled ‘Reboot Beirut’ with the task of designing and executing solutions to challenges faced in Beirut city life in less than 36 hours. The three winning teams proposed solutions to issues in healthcare, traffic management, and food home-sourcing.
The three-day event is the first hackathon to be held by AUB and Wamda, an enabling platform for entrepreneurs in the MENA region. It brought young developers, engineers, and designers to craft unique tech-driven solutions and was held at the Ray R. Irani Oxy Engineering Complex in AUB’s Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (FEA) last weekend.
Students from different faculties at AUB registered to participate, the majority being third and fourth year students from the departments of Computer and Communications Engineering (CCE) and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at FEA, and the department of Computer Science (CS) at the Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS). They were challenged to strategically design and put to work electronics, programs, and machines to prototype solutions. For engineering seniors, this was an opportunity to formulate their required Final Year Project.
The hackathon kicked off with a motivating opening by Habib Haddad (BE, '02), Wamda’s cofounder and CEO, and an interactive discussion bringing in advice from professors, entrepreneurs, and hackathon mentors. “You have much more power in your hands, use it in what you’re good at. Build stuff,” said Haddad.
The students, who eagerly gelled into six teams of six by the first day, were guided into labs to finalize their ideas of what problems they wanted to tackle and how they would propose to solve them.
The pitching process followed. With facilitation by a select group of 11 mentors and eight team leads – entrepreneurship experts, founders of initiatives, academia, and designers – the participants validated or amended their ideas and designed their proposed solutions. By the second day, the participants were in their studios busy at work on idea development, design, business strategy, and implementation with their mentors. In the workshops, they drilled surfaces, sawed wood, and created machines that materialized their proposal.
The last day entailed presentation of the projects, which was also evaluated by jury, and an announcement of the winners. Prizes were presented by Professor Ayman Kayssi, associate dean at FEA and cofounder of technology development and consulting company SAUGO 360.
The winner team was MyNurse, with students Hussein Sleiman, Jad Haidar, and Hadi Ayash, which proposed an online platform (mobile app) that matches at-home patients with home nurses. Through the app, a patient or caretaker can specify the service they need and their location. The app recommends nurses in nearby areas based on inserted data. Both the nurse and the patient are then able to log in progress and rate the service.
Hadi Ayash in the winning team is a first year CCE student who has been programming (coding) since age 12. To him, the hackathon was a “great experience” and a “unique opportunity”. “When I first joined the hackathon I was very afraid and thought of not participating, especially since that I was the youngest participant there,” he told us. “I met people from diverse backgrounds and we worked hard together to deliver the best possible version of our app in just 48 hours. It was really special.”
First runner up team, Spottr, composed of students Samir Ghobril, Elie Hage, Johnny Toumieh, Christy Abou Zeid, Karen Saleh, and Elie Lebbos, proposed an exclusive app for AUB students that facilitates the exchange of public parking spaces by alerting drivers when public parking spots are available. Second runner up, Shatlé, with students Mohamad Fares Al Jajeh, Mohammad Al-Husseini, Alaa El Hariri, Bilal Ghader, and Shereen Zaatari, offered a solution for families to home-source their food in a cost-efficient and easy manner through an automated outdoor and indoor planting system.
The three other teams were RebikeBeirut, proposing the installation of bike stations throughout Beirut; PoolMe, a carpooling app with a point collection reward system; and QUAOL, a sensor based pollution assessment reader box that can be used to rate areas by levels of different types of pollution.
“[Students] are our superpower…We can combine the knowledge and technology that evolves anywhere in the world and apply it here,” said Dr. Imad ElHajj, Associate professor of Engineering, programming, and robotics at AUB.
The competition concluded with a discussion on the way ahead for the young would-be entrepreneurs. The students left armed with tools and advice from experts on support, possibilities, challenges, and solutions for different levels of entrepreneurship. They also left with the knowledge that they were now many steps closer to bringing their dreams and visions to reality.