ABU DHABI - Take Flight, an online platform to enable cross-language video mentoring for audiences across the Arab World, took the top prize at the NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Hackathon 2013.
Hosted by the NYUAD Institute, more than 80 students from 16 countries worked with mentors to brainstorm, develop, and present computer science applications designed to tackle specific challenges pertaining to the region during the three-day event. The applications were presented and rated by a distinguished judging panel on Sunday evening.
The winning team, which included Seth Thompson (Yale University, US), Alex Qin (NYU New York, US), Geoffrey Litt (Yale University, US), and Omar Omran (Lebanese American University, Lebanon), took on the challenge of the high rate of youth unemployment currently seen in the Arab World.
The web-based service they built connects students to mentors throughout the region who can provide professional advice. The interface allows users to log-in through Facebook and create a profile to indicate desired areas of skill development, in addition to areas the user can teach, in order to create the opportunity for a two-way exchange. Using videoconferencing technology, users can book meetings to connect with others and can even request translator assistance.
Seth Thompson, who was in Abu Dhabi for the first time said: “I attended this event because I had done some political investigative work in Egypt previously and as a computer scientist I wanted to tie these two fields together. There has certainly been value in bringing foreign students to Abu Dhabi to engage in a cross-cultural dialogue and to bring different perspectives to these issues.”
Second place was awarded to a project called Safe Journey, a mobile application, targeted particularly towards women and children, to promote increased security in using public transportation. The application sends an SMS to a designated contact as the passenger leaves his or her destination, and maintains contact with that contact until safe arrival at the destination.
In addition to the winners chosen by the judging panel, audience members were able to vote for teams live during the event; the audience award went to an application called Alert2Sign, a mobile application to make audio-based public service announcements accessible to the hearing impaired through sign language translation.
Sana Odeh, affiliated professor of Computer Science at NYUAD, said: “We have been tremendously impressed by the creativity and dedication that we have seen from all of our participants and mentors. To develop working prototypes of computer applications in just three days is no small feat, but judging from the range of insightful responses that were presented it is clear that these applications developed in the Hackathon have the potential to tackle important real-world issues.
This is the second time we’ve held this event in Abu Dhabi, and we look forward to continued growth in future editions as the NYUAD Hackathon continues to develop into an important platform to promote computer science innovation here in the region.”
The NYUAD Hackathon provides an opportunity to draw students to the Arab World to share and generate ideas, learn new platforms and programming languages, design and develop mobile and web applications, and work with peers from around the world.
Sixteen applications were developed by participating students from the UAE, Algeria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and the US. Mentors included academics and professionals from organizations such as Google, NASA, Microsoft Research, the Arab Academy for Science, among others.