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LA-area high school students compete in UCLA’s 1st ideathon for health technology

Students from 14 high schools across Los Angeles attended the iGIP HealthTech Ideathon on campus Sunday. The 60 students competed in teams to brainstorm ideas and create solutions to improve the treatment of sudden cardiac arrests. (Courtesy of Ashley Villanueva)

By Victoria Li

Nov. 18, 2021 6:13 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article misidentified Deanna Nguyen’s title.

This post was updated Nov. 19 at 12:34 p.m.

UCLA students hosted the school’s first-ever health technology ideathon for high school students Sunday.

Over the course of the seven-hour iGIP HealthTech Ideathon at UCLA, 12 teams of students worked together to devise solutions using health technology for a patient undergoing sudden cardiac arrest. Sixty students from 14 high schools in and around Los Angeles attended the event held in Ackerman Union.

Kanon Mori, the executive producer of the event and a third-year computational and systems biology student, said at the event that the team wanted to create a medical hackathon for young students with no coding skills necessary. Students usually think they lack the necessary skills to make an impact, she added.

“This hackathon was there to … give them the transformative experience for them to realize that, ‘No, like if we put our brains together and create these innovative solutions, we can actually formulate solutions that can save a person’s life,’” Mori said.

Several physicians and professionals in the health technology industry were invited to help advise the students through the brainstorming process and judge their ideas at the end.

The professionals included cardiologists David Cho and Megan Kamath, as well as BioscienceLA CEO David Whelan, NurLabs CEO Sumita Jonak and Deanna Nguyen, a product designer at Ro.

They were there not only as resources for the competition but also as mentors for students to learn about college and careers in health technology, Mori added.

Raffi Simonian, the keynote speaker and senior program manager at [email protected], an organization that creates educational opportunities about the technology industry, walked students through the problem-solving process and taught them about design thinking – a strategy to identify issues and quickly come up with an idea for a solution that considers the users’ needs.

Saumya Swati, a student at West High School in Torrance, was part of the third-place team that came up with an idea to use microneedle patches to improve automated external defibrillators, the medical device used to shock and restart a person’s heart after it stops.

The microneedles would help the shocking pads on AEDs better stick to a person’s chest, she said, adding that sometimes sweat on the skin can cause conventional patches to slide off.

At the end of the competition, each team presented their ideas, which was followed by a short Q&A session with the rest of the students.

Carissa Zhu, another organizer of the event and a third-year computational and systems biology student, said she was glad to see the students enjoy their experience and bond with new friends over their shared interests.

“You could really see people were really proud of themselves after their presentations,” she said.

Simonian said he was impressed by the detailed questions the students asked at the event.

“Some of the questions they were asking me as a mentor … was just unbelievable,” Simonian said. “The foresight they have and the depth they were looking into the problem – I didn’t expect that from high school students.”

The event’s organizers want to hold another ideathon next year and continue it annually, Mori said. She added that they wish to expand the competition to other universities as well.

As an aspiring psychiatrist, Swati said she hopes to attend UCLA in the future and join the competition again as an undergraduate mentor.

Mori also said that she hopes the students apply what they learn to pursue entrepreneurship opportunities in the future.

“Ideas generated today should not just end as ideas,” she said.

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Victoria Li | Science and Health editor
Li is the 2021-2022 science and health editor. She was previously a contributor for the science and health beat. She is also a third-year human biology and society student at UCLA who enjoys writing about research and public health.
Li is the 2021-2022 science and health editor. She was previously a contributor for the science and health beat. She is also a third-year human biology and society student at UCLA who enjoys writing about research and public health.
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