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A group of students at the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) won a prize for designing a wireless oxygen saturation monitor for infants as part of the second annual women’s hackathon at the college’s Machon Tal campus last week.
The challenge, presented by Intel and Alyn Children’s Hospital, was to create a more comfortable way to monitor oxygen levels in infants’ bloodstream, as opposed to the commonly used device which has proven uncomfortable for children, explained Hadass Wittow, a third-year computer science student at JCT who was part of the winning team.
Typically, the device is clipped to a finger and attached with wires, but the newly developed product will allow for wireless monitoring attached to an infant’s toe and part of a special sock which will be much more comfortable, she said.
The device was designed as a part of the college’s annual “Hack@Tal,” a 44-hour hackathon in which more than 100 women participated, ranging from Modern Orthodox to ultra-Orthodox.
“It was really amazing to be able to take this thing from zero, from just a challenge presented, and develop this tremendous product that can create real change and help a lot of people,” said Wittow, adding that she and her team only slept for four out of the 44 hours.
The second-place prize at the competition was awarded to a team of women who used machine learning to automatically detect the images of patients and blur them, which enables organizations and hospitals to protect the privacy of their patients.
“It’s very challenging, I’m very tired, but it’s a lot of fun and I feel like I’m really accomplishing something,” said Esti David, a third-year computer science student and mother of three.
David, 25, explained that she worked as a special education teacher prior to beginning her studies at JCT’s Machon Tal.
“I didn’t feel like that job was challenging me, so I’m very happy I started learning here,” she explained.
“The [college] really respects and values mothers. There’s a special [nursery] at the hackathon since we are here all night, and all year there is so much support.”
Orlee Guttman, director of strategic partnerships at JCT and organizer of the event, said the goal of the college’s women’s program is to empower Orthodox women by inviting them to participate in challenges such as the hackathon.
“Many of these [ultra-Orthodox] women have never been exposed to this sort of technology – some don’t even have Internet at home – and now they are working with and creating hi-tech trailblazing technology: it’s truly incredible,” she said.
At the event, many mothers were tasked with the additional challenge of trying to code and program with one hand, while holding a baby in the other. For this reason, JCT provided daycare services throughout the hackathon, said Guttman. “These women are setting the precedent that you can be a trailblazer while maintaining your values; being a haredi mother and working in hi-tech are not mutually exclusive.”
“We will continue to work hard so that this type of engineering and innovation will continue to come from these women and these communities,” she added.
David said she is grateful for the effort of the mentors and organizers of the hackathon.
“You really feel like you’re doing something important,” she said. “I want to go to a big company and show everyone that even though I’m a haredi woman with kids, I can still be anything I want to be.”
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