How to Create a Potential IMPACT in 48 Hours

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

At Ycenter, we believe in three things

1. Make an impact for communities in Africa
2. Offer a hands-on learning experience for college/university students
3. Have fun

This is almost like a litmus test for everything we do at Ycenter. The way to do this right now is - we offer a 3 month long international immersive learning program for university students to go to Africa and work on impactful projects in healthcare and education.

Ycenter is a social enterprise startup where we like to push the envelope and challenge ourselves. Out to curiosity to learn, we ask, is there any way we can do this in 48 hours, over duration of a weekend?

We found an answer and inspiration in the form of an existing model - Hackathon.
For those who do not know what this is, hackathon is a code fest - an event that calls for action from programmers and coders to use current platforms, technologies, API to create a new application, app or a software. Some companies, such as Cognizant, Facebook and Google, hold internal hackathons to promote new product innovation by the engineering staff. For example according to some sources, Facebook's "Like" button was conceived as part of a hackathon.


The short answer was YES. It is possible to create a program that can possibly pass all the measures for our litmus test. So we decided to organize a citywide hackathon styled event called IMPACTATHON - basically gathering a bunch of heavily caffeinated students over a weekend to create something novel that can have a real impact for communities in Africa in the field of healthcare. The unique thing about Impactathon is the "WHY" for this event which makes it truly different from other hackathons. We want participants to create solutions that can have a real measurable IMPACT for communities in Africa. The students can create any kind of solution - a web app/mobile app/a public health outreach model/a hardware designed product - which made the event truly open to students from multi disciplines.

Photo Credits - Shubham Garg
Photographed at Benjamin's Desk, Philadelphia

First Place Winner - Connect the dots

Problem: According to Richard Cibulskis, coordinator of the WHO's global malaria program, over 90% of the world's malaria cases are likely to go unreported. "One of the issues is that the data systems are weakest in the places where malaria is the most common," says Cibulskis. "For some countries in Africa, we don't have any good data at all." While only 117,704 malaria deaths were officially reported in government records for 2009, the WHO estimates that closer to 800,000 people died of the disease that year.

Solution: An epidemiological data collection and visualization tool using SMS that large agencies like WHO, or mid sized NGOs and community health clinics can use to get data, at the same time, patients can use to demand point of care malaria testing without having to travel miles to get the testing done. Also, once the data is collected to a central system through sms'es, then using low bandwidth internet communication, the data is transferred to Google Maps API to truly visualize the data of malaria cases that can help not only see the trends but also help in creating prevention programs for other community members in that area.

Photo Credit - Malvika Thakur, Ycenter Intern

Members (From left-to-right)
Yi Lao, Tamanna Chawla, Tarika Chawla.
They are all 4th year, Information system students at Drexel University

Second Place Winner - Solata Tek

Problem: 8.1 Million cellular phones are present in Mozambique (world rank: 91) and growing at exponential rates just like other countries in the African continent.

Cell phones (feature phones) are extremely multifunctional for apps like M-Pesa -Mobile Banking for over 70% of the population: paying bills, wages, goods, services, etc. Charging a mobile phone is "insanely" expensive. Lack of central grid and distributive transmission lines are additional challenges. To charge a phone, one must leave village and go to local shop or kiosk and pay 25 cents to charge phone that's $91 a year!

Solution: A solar panel kit that is easy to assemble and economical. With cost under $4 Kit enclosed in the size of an everyday envelope with IC Circuit sourced from old appliances and extremely low assembly time - no skills/knowledge required. Comes with a Guaranteed Lifetime of 1 year and can be fit in a soda can.

Photo Credit - Chinmai Parikh, Ycenter Intern

Sachin Gandhi is a 2nd year, BS Biomedical Engineering, Drexel University and Rishiraj Mathur is a 2nd year, BS Mechanical Engineering, Drexel University

And the most unique value for this event is that it has a solid connection to the real world. On the final day of presentation, we invited a community member from Mozambique - Miguel Rungo, to present to him all the solutions and get his early feedback on the projects. And finally, to truly make an IMPACT, there has to be a piece of ACTION attached to it. The event makes no sense, if a bunch of students create something over a weekend and then go home. Hence Ycenter announces a special prize for the first place winning team. They will get a scholarship to go to Africa through Ycenter' international program for up to two team members and actually work with these communities to implement their solutions. We are currently working with these students and their advisors to figure out the logistics. We will keep you posted.

IMPACTATHON in a nutshell

8261 Miles between Philadelphia, USA and Mozambique, Africa. 45 days to organize the event, 20 meetings, 200 Tweets, 800 Website Unique Hits, 30 Student registrations, 3 Judges, 3 mentors, 140 Slices of Pizza, 50 bottles of energy drink, 48 hours event , 6 solutions, 2 winners, 1 impact