MIT Hacking Medicine goes to Chile

By January 3, 2017 October 13th, 2018 Uncategorized

Hacking Medicine Institute Executive Director Judy Wang represented MIT Hacking Medicine at HackaIoT Chile 2016 in Concepción, Chile last month. She reflects on her experience below.


This December I had the
opportunity to represent Hacking Medicine at the HackaIoT Health hack in
Concepción, Chile. I had never been to Chile before and was eager to learn more
about academic support of innovation and entrepreneurship there, and hear more
about the health care challenges of one of South America’s most stable and
prosperous countries.

The second largest city in Chile, Concepción is 500 km (approx. 300 miles) from Santiago and a university town. I immediately felt a kinship with
the co-lead team of Pablo Gonzalez Brevis, a Lecturer at the Concepción campus
of Universidad del Desarollo (UDD), Ramiro Bopp, Admissions Coordinator for UDD
Concepción, and Tomas Pacheco, a recent UDD Engineering grad. This team had
come together last year to plan a successful hackathon focused on connected
technologies, and wanted to focus on health technologies this year.

Their hackathon was structured
similarly to a typical MIT Hacking Medicine hack: pre-hack activities on a
Friday night, including workshops focused on ideation and pitching; participant
hacking on Saturday and Sunday; and presentations on Sunday afternoon. One
interesting idea they had was to have every team submit a 90 second video pitch
for judging on Sunday afternoon. Judges would then use these video pitches to
narrow the field to approximately 10 finalist teams that would have the
opportunity to pitch their hacks in front of their peers.

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There was no overall theme for
HackaIoT Health, unlike a typical MIT Hacking Medicine hack. However, I was
struck by how similar the healthcare challenges in Chile were to those we
experience in the United States. One of the content experts and judges, a
pediatric specialist in one of Chile’s biggest hospitals, described his pain
points around preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and also
encouraged the participants to think outside the box when it came to medical
applications for wearable technology. Another judge was a first responder for
Chile’s Fire Rescue service, and described one of his biggest
challenges—real-time communication between all first responders during a
crisis. He related his experience of being on the front lines during
emergencies such as the 2010 earthquake in Concepción, in which the lack of
real-time information available made it incredibly difficult to coordinate
evacuation of victims and recording of vital information between first responders.

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At the end of the day, the three
winners of the hackathon all shared that same special sauce, that magic “je ne
sais quoi” that we look for in our winning hack teams. Third prize went to a
team that had all come together at the hack to create an Arduino-powered smart
walking stick for the blind, adding a feature that would enable the user to
sense overhead obstacles. This team also won the Fire Rescue’s special prize
for creating the foundation of a platform that would leverage real-time data capture
to better allocate first responder resources across a city. Second prize went
to Salud Intra Hospitalaria, which leveraged robotics technologies to clean a
hospital’s air ducts and vents, eliminating a source of hospital infections.
First prize went to Castinela, which leveraged predictive analytics and
wearables to monitor the elderly based on routine activities. All the teams
pledged to stay together and continue working on their prototypes to prepare
for their mentoring sessions with UDD Ventures.

On my last day in Chile, I was
able to tour the UDD Santiago innovation campus. 

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The university has thrown a
lot of energy and support behind making Santiago and Chile an innovation hub
for South America, creating coworking spaces and programming to support
innovation and entrepreneurship spaces. Many of the professors have already
formed partnerships with top universities in the US like UC Berkeley, Stanford
and MIT to provide their students with additional opportunities to learn about
innovation initiatives abroad. As I flew back to Boston, I couldn’t help but
think that the possibilities for Latin American innovation and entrepreneurship
are limitless. It’s thrilling to think that the HackaIoT team and MIT Hacking
Medicine set the stage for what could become a burgeoning health tech industry in
Chile.