This interdisciplinary event teamed data science, engineering, and policy students to explore solutions to real societal challenges submitted by sponsor organizations. The hackathon, subtitled "Data to Decisions," was organized and run by students from MIT's Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS). Participants used datasets provided by nonprofit, education, and government institutions to pitch solutions to complex challenges in cybersecurity, health, energy and climate, transportation, and the future of work. A panel of judges evaluated the pitches and read final policy proposals. "It's a different type of hackathon in that it is focused on public policy outcomes," says Amy Umaretiya, a student organizer with IDSS's Master's program in Technology and Policy (TPP).
This post is by Chirag Dhull, Product Marketing Manager for Advanced Analytics at Microsoft. It's no secret that there's a vast trove of benefits that data science can offer to organizations of all stripes. However, we simultaneously face a situation where there is a global shortage of data science talent. As Patrick Wolfe, Deputy Director of the Alan Turing Institute in London, put it, "Data sets are coming faster than we can even conceive them, so we need really smart people to come up with new algorithms, new ideas and new solutions on how to make sense of this data." Ensuring that universities and students have access to real world tools for analytics and data science is the first step in empowering the next generation of data scientists.
This story is part of a series on A.I. in healthcare. Onno Faber was a member of Silicon Valley's happy breed of tech startup founders when he was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition that can come with dire health damage, but few treatments. Faber responded with entrepreneurial zeal, exploring whether Silicon Valley's mastery of algorithms might help root out and defeat the threatening quirks in his genetic code. Without any ready-made solutions on hand from big drug companies and their established research teams, Faber started to recruit individuals to his cause. The results of Faber's crusade so far demonstrate a trait Silicon Valley has in common with living things--a startling talent for self-organization.
As the gospel of Silicon Valley-style disruption spreads to every sector in the economy, so too have the industry's favorite competitive ritual, hackathons. The contests, where small teams of "hackers" build tech products in marathon all-night coding sessions, are a hallmark of Silicon Valley culture. Recall Facebook's most famous hackathon, thrown on the eve of its IPO to show the world that the demands of being a public company would not kill the "hacker way" at One Hacker Way. Even New York Fashion Week and the Vatican have hosted hackathons. They've become part of a "toolkit" for large organizations seeking a veneer of innovation.