Health monitoring device takes first place at Amman’s Maker Hackathon

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Attendees experiment with littleBits while developing preliminary prototype designs. (Images via Dina Al Zubi)

A health-monitoring device was awarded first place Saturday at Amman’s Maker Hackathon. Smart Tops, a wearable healthcare system designed by Islam Abu Alruz, utilizes sensors to provide real-time data on the wearer’s heartbeat, body temperature, posture, and other metrics to identify health risks and connect users with emergency medical services.

Abu Alruz was just one of more than 50 engineers who were there on Saturday. While most hackathons are attended primarily by ICT experts, Jordan’s hackathon welcomed a diverse array of participants whose disciplines ranged from product design to business administration.

Second place went to Laser Tag Game, a digital interpretation of the sport that utilizes smartphones and Google Maps to track players. Sukarh, a product design that rebrands traditional Nabulsi pumpkin jam as a multinational Arab product, was selected for third place.

The three-day event was organized by the crowdfunding platform Zoomaal, and took place at Zain Jordan’s Zain Innovation Campus. A similar event took place in Cairo early in February.

“The Maker Hackathon is about integration,” said Zoomaal Events Coordinator Aisha Habli.

“It’s not enough for individuals to spend all their time with people from the same discipline. By combining team members that have different backgrounds and skill sets, participants can think outside the box – and that’s how disruptive ideas are born.”

Sofyan Tarawneh, general manager of event partner
Engineering Geniuses, tests his company's robotics display.

Many of the prototypes shown on Saturday focused on health and communications. Abjad, for instance, is a smart glove with a built-in palm keyboard and that helps those who are hearing impaired to communicate through a visual display auto-speaking feature.

Biomedical engineer Hasan Al Omari 3D-printed his first prototype of a smart scalpel, part of a medical tool system named Hippocrates that provides data to boost the precision of surgical procedures, and help aspiring surgeons learn their craft.

“For hardware, the hackathon format works well – when you challenge someone to realize their vision in only three days, they often create something that otherwise would have taken months,” explains Zoomaal Fellow Riyad Hilal.

Event partners, like Refugee Openware and Amman Hackerspace, allowed entrepreneurs to utilize their state-of-the-art resources at the event. 3DMENA offered comprehensive 3D printing support, guided participants through the process of using complex modeling software and helped teams fine-tune their designs.

LittleBitsLEGO-like electrical prototyping toolshelped bring many teams’ ideas to life. “They’re perfect for those who want to experience electronics in a non-traditional way,” says hackathon volunteer Baraa Zawaideh. Engineering Geniuses provided robotics support, and showed off offbeat applications like a Kinect-enabled robot that mirrors human gestures and a Pac-Man game where controllers are replaced with wired bananas.

Entrepreneurs didn’t just get hardware support. JoGeeks, an entrepreneurship community that bills itself “a Swiss Army Knife that technically supports, advises and guides startups” offered business development and tech support.

“Maker Hackathon is an interesting step towards popularizing the ‘maker movement’ – a segment of technology development that is under-addressed in the MENA region,” said JoGeeks Strategizer and hackathon mentor Marwan Soudi.

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