Two years ago, “hackathon” was jargon relegated only to Silicon Valley, and it usually meant bringing programmers together to create an application or software product. Since then, hackathons have skyrocketed in popularity, spreading far beyond just software development.
In 2014, dozens of hackathons took place in Boston, many focusing on finding solutions to today’s most pressing healthcare problems. Even more of these events will be taking place in 2015, so we spoke with the organizers of many of these hackathons to learn about how the events work and why they’re so successful at sparking medical innovation.
If you’ve thought about planning your own healthcare hackathon, this series will give you a good place to start.
Let’s start at the beginning, though: What exactly is a hackathon? Although many different types of events and conferences operate under the name “hackathon,” they all have a few things in common. First, they’re focused on one specific field or issue and bring together people from a variety of backgrounds who are passionate about the focus of the event. Then once participants arrive at a hackathon, which usually lasts for 48 hours, they form small teams and begin working on solutions to problems within the focus of the hackathon, typically by creating a new technology. In most cases, participants have not worked together previously nor have they considered their proposed solution before. Once the hackathon weekend is complete, teams pitch their ideas to a group of judges, who then vote on which ideas are the best. Winners receive prizes, which can range from cash prizes to mentorship.
Brendan Pease was MedTech Boston's first ever editorial and events intern. He is now a junior at Harvard University where he studies Molecular and Cellular Biology. He’s also the Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Harvard Science Review. Previously, he worked as a Market Intelligence intern at athenahealth and as a research assistant in the Goldberg Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital.
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