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UTMB students to join ‘hackathon’ to help solve community problems

At least 21 University of Texas Medical Branch students will compete this weekend in Incubate Galveston: A Collective’s Innovation Hackathon to come up with solutions to tough community issues. 

The three-day event starts at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 15 at 2121 Market St., Galveston and will foster creative thinking to develop innovative new concepts, ideas, or prototypes. 

The word “hackathon” comes from software brainstormers who would come together for “hacking marathons” to solve problems in creative collaboration.  

This weekend, experts, entrepreneurs, students and community members will work in teams to tackle challenges in healthcare, coastal resilience and community engagement in Galveston. 

One participant will be Clairissa Hansen, an Experimental Pathology doctoral student at UTMB who also serves as Executive President of the UTMB Student Government Association.

"I'm excited to work with an interdisciplinary team to tackle some of Galveston's issues with health and equity,” Hansen said. “Focusing on solving one specific problem will be a nice change of pace from being constantly blasted with bad news."

Teams will discover their specific problem to solve Friday. The challenge categories include diabetes self-management education and support; digital solution for regional health care delivery, from long-term care to acute response to disaster events; food shortage and distribution; and disrupting the cycle of chronic homelessness.

For UTMB students, the hackathon is an ideal environment for learning about entrepreneurial thinking and working as a team to solve problems in the community, said Dr. Massoud Motamedi, Associate Chief Research Officer and Chief Bioengineering and Biotechnology Innovations Officer at UTMB.

“These are priority goals of our Blackstone LaunchPad program and our Clinical and Translational Science Award, and we are excited to be working with Incubate Galveston and their partners to explore issues like prevention and care for diabetes,” Motamedi said. 

“Teaching is a key part of UTMB mission—it is our duty to train the next generation of healthcare providers and biomedical researchers,” he said. “Thus, we are committed to provide training opportunities for our students to learn about entrepreneurial mindset and innovation while creating an environment that allows the students to feel free to experiment and share ideas with stakeholder, business leaders, advisors, mentors, community leaders, investors and researchers.”

The event sponsors that came up with the challenges are UTMB, Texas A&M University at Galveston and the City of Galveston. Other sponsors include Blackstone LaunchPad, Galveston Economic Development Partnership, Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce, Ion Houston and Vision Galveston.

At the end of the event Sunday, teams will present pitches for an innovative product, service or business model that solves a given problem. Judges will award cash prizes to $4,000 and an opportunity for a winning team to present its solution to the Galveston City Council.