2019 Health and Regenerative Medicine Hackathon

On the weekend of October 4th, our team participated in this year’s Health and Regenerative Medicine Hackathon. We thought we would give a quick recap of the event as well as share our experience with you.

By: Natalie Koehn, Jacqui Moreland, Kim Arklie and Jacky Le 

The second annual Health and Regenerative Medicine Hackathon was held at Fort Tectoria in downtown Victoria during the first weekend of October.

Traditionally, a hackathon is a competition where people gather to tackle coding and programming related challenges in a consecutive period of 24-48 hours. However, the Health and Regenerative Medicine Hackathon is different! The challenges – as its name suggests – are related to health and medicine. Due to the nature of the challenges, competitors were allowed to work on their designs during the month leading up to the Hackathon weekend.  

The following challenges were presented to us by various organizations involved in Victoria’s health industry:  

  • A biofilm prevention on filtration membranes
  • An all-in-one microfluidic culture system for generating organoids
  • A novel sit to stand coupling mechanism between the exoskeleton brace and the electrical lift
  • A solution to reductions of single use plastics in healthcare
  • An add-on device for an upper-limb prosthetic that would allow the user to hold a pencil to make writing easier for children at school
  • A mouth input control for RC model planes and drones

As a combined team of biomedical and mechanical engineers from the University of Victoria, we are passionate about creating assistive technology to solve health-related problems. We had worked together in a school group project in the past and were looking to find another opportunity to work together and design something meaningful.

Inspired by their patient stories and their mission to provide low-cost healthcare opportunities to developing countries, we were eager to take on the Victoria Hand Project’s (VHP) challenge to create an assistive device to allow children to write.

A 3D printed solution was optimal for both the rapid prototyping of the Hackathon but also was one of the design requirements for the given project.

In the two weeks leading up to the Hackathon, we came up with a general design concept consisting of two major components – an attachment mechanism to the prosthetic hand and a clamping mechanism for the writing utensil. A few iterations were made as a result of tests performed on our original design.

This led us to our final product that utilizes a three-prong and elastic mechanism to grasp the pencil. The pencil is housed in a cylindrical tube, held in place at an optimal angle, that attaches to a simple support that wraps around the bottom of the hand. The hand rests on a bed of silicone at the base of the device in order to prevent unwanted movement, and tightly secured with a velcro strap.

It was inspiring coming together on the final day of the Hackathon to see the hard work of each group come to life to create such a wide range of solutions. The panel of judges, sponsors and professionals that attended the event were just as passionate about the projects as we were. They provided feedback and support to the teams throughout the Hackathon and helped make the event possible.

All in all, it was a great opportunity and we are looking forward to participating in next year’s Hackathon. We encourage anyone who is interested in STEM related fields to engage in opportunities like this and explore the design world in a fun, out of school environment! 

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