RIT computing students win top prizes at MIT Hacking Medicine hackathon

Students studying human-computer interaction create apps to improve health care




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Archit Jha (second from left), a human-computer interaction graduate student, worked with a team to place as a finalist in the MIT Hacking Medicine Grand Hack May 12–14 at the MIT campus. Jha’s group created Baseline, a social support app for mental health disorders.

Two Rochester Institute of Technology students took home top prizes in a hackathon where computing skills can be used to help solve some of healthcare’s biggest challenges.

Archit Jha and Rohan Patel, who are both human-computer interaction master’s students, joined more than 400 innovators at the MIT Hacking Medicine Grand Hack May 12–14 on the MIT campus to diagnose problems in health care. At the hackathon, both RIT students took home top honors and cash prizes for creating apps that help those with epilepsy and mental health disorders.

The MIT Grand Hack aimed to create disruptive solutions in health care by bringing together engineers, clinicians, designers and developers from around the country. The fourth annual event allowed participants to divide into small groups that worked on solutions for three broad areas—invisible conditions, robotics and intelligent technologies and patient care continuum.

“I was a little hesitant to attend the hackathon in the beginning, because I had assumed that it would be for medical practitioners and entrepreneurs,” said Jha, who is from India. “But when I looked into past projects and winners, I found out that the goal is more to identify a problem better than to provide a hastened fully fleshed out solution.”

Jha joined a group of students and industry professionals to create Baseline, a social support app for mental health disorders. The team received $750 and a medal for placing as a third finalist in their track.

The app provides better care for patients with bipolar disorder by tracking metrics, such as finances, sleep and travel activity of the patients. The app can then notify loved ones whenever an anomaly is detected. As part of the event, the team created a mid-fidelity prototype and business plan model for the app.

“It was a good opportunity for me to jump out of my comfort zone and apply my skills in identifying problems and deploying empathy design and user-centered design ideologies to help the case,” Jha said.

Patel worked with a team to create Centered, a mobile app that provides resources and a supportive community for adults newly diagnosed with epilepsy. The team won the Best Epilepsy Hack Award and a $500 gift card from the sponsor.

“We identified that there are several solutions out in the market that help detect seizures, but there is no solution that focuses on patients when they are not having seizures,” said Patel, who is from India. “So we proposed an application that will provide all the information regarding epilepsy that can be used by newly diagnosed patients, their friends and family.”

Content for the app includes podcasts, articles by doctors and question and answer forums. Patel said the application will be free, open source and epilepsy patients can contribute towards the project by adding any features they want.

For Patel, the human-computer interaction degree is his second master’s degree at RIT. He graduated from RIT’s computer science graduate program in 2016.

“While on a co-op last year, I worked closely with a designer in my team and realized I could contribute to projects really well in the future if I had deep understanding of user experience,” said Patel. “I hope that we can inspire others to participate in the largest medicine hackathon and come up with innovative ideas.”

To learn more about RIT’s graduate degree in human-computer interaction, go to hci.rit.edu.

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Archit Jha (second from left), a human-computer interaction graduate student, worked with a team to place as a finalist in the MIT Hacking Medicine Grand Hack May 12–14 at the MIT campus. Jha’s group created Baseline, a social support app for mental health disorders.

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Rohan Patel (second from right), a human-computer interaction graduate student, created a mobile app that provides resources and a supportive community for adults newly diagnosed with epilepsy. His team’s project won Best Epilepsy Hack at the hackathon.