Friday, July 19

Inventathon challenges students to find health care solutions

Students worked on hacking and other activities at the Inventathon on Saturday, hosted by the UCLA Business of Science Center.

Students worked on hacking and other activities at the Inventathon on Saturday, hosted by the UCLA Business of Science Center. Felicia Ramirez / Daily Bruin

The clock struck 2 a.m. as groups of students raced through their twelfth straight hour of drawing on windows, crumpling up pieces of scrap paper and brainstorming new healthcare technologies.

They hadn’t even made it halfway through the UCLA Inventathon.

“We’re discovering that we can’t realistically know every possible detail about what can go wrong. We just have to keep going,” said Tiffany Guo, a third-year economics student.

The teams participated in the first-ever health care-focused “Inventathon,” hosted by the UCLA Business of Science Center, from Friday afternoon to Saturday evening.

Participants were given mentorship from successful medical innovators and 24 hours to formulate a solution to unmet medical needs identified at the UCLA Medical Center, such as helping patients monitor their skin cancer or caregivers keep track of patients’ needs in the ICU. The teams’ solutions varied from stickers to complex computer algorithms.

The Inventathon marked the culmination of UCLA’s Innovation Week, a series of events meant to inspire the campus community to think outside the box and provide them with resources to form companies.

“We want students to realize that they can change the world,” said Shyam Natarajan, founder and lead organizer of the event.

Many students who attended the event said they had never been to a hackathon-style event in which people have to create a software project in a limited amount of time before.

“Without having a coding background, I always thought it was pointless for me to go to a hackathon,” Guo said. “The highlight of the Inventathon was realizing how much anyone could contribute to a team, regardless of their experience.”

Guo’s team formed a concept to help make sure that elderly patients adhere to their required pill regimens. They designed a system that uses color-coded pill bottles and a mat that can weigh the bottles independently to determine how many pills remain, so that a patient’s loved ones can see that the medication has been taken, Guo said.

The Inventathon culminated with each team giving a three minute long “fast pitch,” describing its solution to a panel of judges.

The winning team received a $1,000 prize for designing a device that uses sensors to detect compounds present in the air, and proposing a computer algorithm that could detect lung cancer if a patient breathes into the device.

They also will receive on-campus resources like office space to take the idea further if they wish.

“We look forward to the next step and moving the idea forward,” said Daniel Yazdi, a first-year medical student.

“We’re glad that the team was able to combine simple components, like sensors, to make a product that might do something much greater,” Yazdi said.

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