3 April 2017 • by Lotte Hoes
Hacking for healthcare: ‘We definitely plan to develop our project further!’
‘Wow, you guys really accomplished a huge amount in such a short period of time! I’m proud of you,’ says Ferrie Förster, Alderman for Economic Affairs, Culture and Spatial Development for the City of Delft, as he stands in front of a group of exhausted students. They’ve just completed the Tech4Health hackathon, during which they spent 24 hours developing technical concepts for healthcare projects and the corresponding prototypes.
This was the second edition of the hackathon, held at the Betafactory in Delft from 24-25 March. Students of various degree programmes volunteered to work on a range of cases in small groups for an entire day – 24 hours non-stop. At the end of the hackathon, the group that presented the best idea was given the opportunity to further develop their prototype this summer at the European Innovation Academy in Lisbon.
The winning concept? Hold On, a small device that, both literally and figuratively, offers those who engage in self-injury something to hold on to. Bart Speet, an Engineering Physics student, was one of the inventors of the concept. Although he hadn’t slept in 24 hours, he still looked quite sharp as he presented the prototype to his fellow students and the jury. ‘After consulting with a number of experts, we decided on a device made of soft rubber that easily fits into your hand,’ he explains. ‘When you feel the urge to hurt yourself, you grab the Hold On and it measures your heart rate. If it’s high, it starts vibrating. The vibration gradually diminishes, lowering your heart rate to a calmer level. Hold On also has a recording function, so you can record encouraging or comforting messages for when you feel lost. These play automatically when your heart rate goes up.’
A noble project according to the jury, which rewarded Bart’s group with first prize. Jury member and business expert Victor Pereboom especially praised the technical feasibility of the concept. ‘The same goes for the other groups,’ he says. ‘It was clear that the students put a great deal of thought into their products. They examined all the existing options in depth and how they could build on those options.’ He refers to the Rollaway group as an example, which developed a walker that is equipped for use by blind and visually-impaired people. This is possible thanks to a braking and acceleration system that slows down the walker when an obstacle approaches or supplies more power to the wheels when the user walks uphill. Other projects included a handgrip that automatically moves up to help people walk upstairs, an interactive placement that motivates children to finish their meal and a hyper-modern picture frame that makes it easier for older people to communicate with their children and grandchildren.
Mirjam Zijderveld is also pleased with the level of this hackathon. As a lecturer in the Industrial Engineering & Management degree programme, she is one of the driving forces behind Tech4Health and sees plenty of opportunities for the concepts. ‘Last year’s winners, for example, had the chance to develop their prototype at the European Innovation Academy 2016. They designed a bath mat that alerts emergency services when the person slips and falls over in the bathroom. Medipoint, a major home medical equipment supplier, is considering launching the mat in the market.’ But the chance that the Hold On will be developed further at the Innovation Academy in Lisbon is slim, says Bart. ‘Almost all of us have other plans for the summer, so we handed over the prize to members of the other teams. But we do plan to continue developing our project further! The Parnassia mental healthcare organisation, for example, has shown an interest in the device, so we hope to take Hold On to the next level before long.’