W&J Team Wins First Place at Mylan Hackathon

WASHINGTON, PA (March 27, 2015) — Collaboration across fields and a strong liberal arts influence contributed to a major win for a Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) team at the 2015 Mylan Hackathon in Southpointe, Cecil Township, Pa. in February.

A team of five W&J students designed and built the mobile app SnapHealth to help consumers manage their medical needs and health goals. The team competed in the category of quality and consumer healthcare, winning first place among 29 teams of undergraduate and graduate students, and field professionals.

“The idea was to make everything easy to use and friendly for the user,” said team member Gustavo Brito Sampaio. “We built the app using really new and emergent technologies. The idea was to explore new areas.”

A prototype of the team’s app can be viewed at the SnapHealth website. The working app would allow consumers to manage their medications, doctors’ appointments, and general health habits, while also storing the consumer’s medical history and information about health insurance, among other features.

Sampaio, with teammates Emerson Jair Reis Oliveira Da Silva, Leonardo Miguel De Moraes Vidal and Mario Scaglione Junior are spending two semesters at W&J as part of the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program and are studying Computing and Information Studies (CIS) to complement their study at their home universities in Brazil. The team was rounded out by fulltime W&J student Abigail Palmer, a senior majoring in cell molecular biology.

The team had 36 hours to build the mobile app, but were allowed to plan the project ahead of time, a process Palmer said allowed the group to take on a challenge that is increasingly real in the medical world.

“There’s a whole communications frontier where doctors are going to start communicating with developers more frequently,” said Palmer, who wants to make a career of building healthcare apps. “This is two very different fields of knowledge. Being able to communicate accurately between the two of them is my focus.”

Palmer’s experience in healthcare research, combined with the technological skills of the CIS students, gave the group an edge, said Amanda Holland-Minkley, Ph.D., associate professor of Computing and Information Studies at W&J. Most groups approached the project mainly with technological components in mind, she said, and did not have a content-area specialist working with them.

Scaglione, who participated in The Facebook Hackathon São Paulo with students from his home university, the University of São Paulo, described the W&J group as “a spectacular combination,” and said the experience helped him prepare for a career developing technology that will improve consumers’ lives.

“Every member of the team collaborated in an awesome way to achieve this brilliant result,” he said. “The group was focused and determine and most important, each member had an understanding of his role in the app development. This Hackathon improved my experience working in teams a lot, coordinating and managing people with different viewpoints.”

Holland-Minkley said the team’s success is a great example of both collaboration across fields and the value of a liberal arts education, because it wasn’t raw technical ability that resulted in a win.

 “The best technical abilities alone aren’t going to help you solve a problem,” she said. “This was about the right people working together, planning and having the right perspective to solve the problem.”

More information about the challenge is available on the Mylan Hackathon 2015 website.

 

About the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program

The Brazil Scientific Mobility Program (BSMP) is a one-year, non-degree program for Brazilian students to study abroad at partner schools in the United States. BSMP is part of the Brazilian government’s larger initiative to grant 100,000 Brazilian University students the opportunity to study abroad at the world’s best colleges and universities. The program provides scholarships to students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. After completion of an academic year, students return to Brazil to complete their degrees. For more information see the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program website.

 

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work.

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