The winning team accepting their 3,000 NIS prizeMichael Erenburg
Over 100 religious women students from the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) / Machon Tal worked tirelessly around the clock last Wednesday through Friday morning as part of the 2nd annual Hack@Tal, a 44-hour Hackathon for the school’s women students, all of whom range from modern Orthodox to haredi.
The winning team, consisting of five software engineering and computer science students, won a 3,000 shekel ($831) prize for their critical solution to a challenge presented by Intel and Alyn Hospital designed to more comfortably monitor oxygen levels in infants’ bloodstream. Instead of the uncomfortable common device, clipped to a finger and attached with wires, the newly-developed product last week allows for wireless monitoring attached to the infants’ toe and part of a comfortable sock. Other challenges at the event were provided by Intel, IBM, Rafael Defense Systems, ExLibris, Synamedia, Magen David Adom, Melabev, Cybersafe, Brix Software, and more.
“It was really amazing to be able to take this thing from zero, from just a challenge presented, and develop this tremendous product that can create real change and help a lot of people,” said Hadass Wittow, a third-year computer science student at Tal who was part of the winning team. “We slept about three hours out of the 44 hours we were taking part in this Hackathon, but it was really special for us. We had a lot of confidence throughout the competition thinking we were going to win, but it was great to hear our name called as the winners.”
The second place prize at the competition was awarded to a team of women who used machine learning to automatically detect the images of patients and then blur them. This enables organizations and hospitals to protect the privacy of their patients.
The women taking part in the Hackathon were from a variety of disciplines, including software engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, and business. At the event, many mothers were often tasked with the challenge of trying to code and develop solutions, programming with one hand and holding an infant in the other. Hack@Tal is likely the only Hackathon in the world to provide daycare services until 1:00am.
“Last year was our first Hackathon for women at Tal, and the interest in participating was absolutely through the roof - so much so that we had to close registration early,” said Orlee Guttman, Director of Strategic Partnerships at JCT / Tal. “It goes to prove what we’ve thought all along. As soon as you provide women from these communities with the chance to create and use their brains and their skills, they take the opportunity and run with it, above and beyond all expectations. We will continue to work hard so that this type of engineering and innovation will continue to come from these women and these communities. The women will continue to receive our support to further develop these products and get them to market.”
JCT is a leader in empowering women by training them at the highest level in engineering, accounting, business and health sciences. JCT educates close to 20 percent of Israel’s female students in computer science and software engineering. Fifty-three percent of JCT’s computer science students are women—18 percent higher than any other Israeli university. The Hackathon is part of JCT’s new LevTech Entrepreneurship Center, which also includes a pre-accelerator program.
The winning team hard at work at the HackathonMichael Erenburg
A 'Hacker Mom' holding her baby while taking part in the HackathonMichael Erenburg