A BioHackathon on the challenges of aging: Rapid need-finding and solution modeling in a student-led event


The Biointerfaces Interlaboratory Committees, the student organization for the Biointerfaces Institute at the University of Michigan, organized and executed an 8 hour “BioHackathon” on the broadly defined clinical topic of ‘Aging.’ The event began with experts in the field (a clinician and an engineer) highlighting the areas of greatest need in which engineers could improve the lives of the aging population. Attendees separated into teams based on shared interests in pursuing specific needs, and rapidly developed need statements and solution models to help the elderly. Solutions ranged from a smart toothbrush to help detect pneumonia in early stages, to small clothing pads to help reduce the impact of falls on hip fractures. Based on a follow-up anonymous internet survey, the attendees indicated they enjoyed the event, and would likely attend a similar event in the future. We conclude by reflecting upon the event, and suggest ways in which we could improve the style of the event for future hackathons.