University Times

Brave new world with innovative weekend-long BioHack

Photo courtesy of Instagram @ivansoledad.o

Photo courtesy of Instagram @ivansoledad.o

Ricky Rodas, Copy editor

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What do you get when you give science and tech-savvy students a place to sleep for the night, massive amounts of hardware, and 30 hours to build and design products that could change the world?

BioHack of course, a “hackathon” competition designed to give students the opportunity to build and test biotechnological products with an emphasis in hardware.

The University Times attended on Saturday, day 1 of the two-day event that took place over the weekend, which also marked the first time a hackathon was held on campus. The concept for Bio Hack was conceived about 4 months ago, and it took the combined efforts of Entrepreneurial Collegiate Consulting Organization (ECCO), Major League Hacking (MLH), LA Bio-Space, Make in LA CEO Norahmay Cadena, Hacker Fund, the Cal State LA engineering department, and more to create this monumental experience for entrepreneurial minded students.

“Overall it’s just a great collaboration of interdisciplinary colleges and interdisciplinary organizations working inside the school and outside the school; it was just a perfect, perfect marriage of all that, and which I think the ultimate direction the university wants to take going forward,” Barney Santos, BioHack lead organizer, said.

While Santos was excited by the outcome produced, he noted that organizing BioHack was not without its challenges. “Uncharted territory always means it’s sort of an ambiguous thing,” Santos said. “This event is made for students, and the student leaders made the process less ambiguous, because they helped execute the whole thing.”

The event was open to students from various colleges, and before the “hacking” commenced, East Los Angeles College (ELAC) student and mechanical engineering major Maricela Ortiz spoke about her excitement. “I was going to class in the engineer department that we have there [at ELAC], and they had it posted up there; so I’m like ‘oh that’s cool, I should go check it out’ just to go see what’s up because I’ve been wanting to go [to a hackathon], but there has been no chance.” Ultimately, Ortiz hoped to meet and build community with others who share her love of coding and building innovative products.

When the event finally began, all 80 plus students in attendance were asked by Barney Santos if they had ever attended a hackathon before, an astounding majority of which had not. After Eagerly waiting to find out the theme of the project, participants were told that their teams would have to build a product that fit within the parameters of food, agriculture, and technology. Once the guidelines were set, everyone quickly dispersed, mingling quickly in order to find the perfect team to win with.

Teams were able to build their dream biotechnological products with over $4,000 worth of hardware donated and sponsored by the school’s engineering department, and Hacker Fund brought on highly skilled professionals as mentors to assist the participants with any needs.

Cal Poly Pomona student Albert Gil’s group were working to create an advanced thermometer using infrared thermal sensors to measure dangerous levels of heat based on someone’s forehead temperature. “That’s pretty much just the basics of what we have right now, we’re still working on it,” Gil said.

Cal State LA student Sochi Sandoval’s group did research that certain bacteria go through certain types of catalysts/enzymes, and those enzymes release certain types of elements. A certain type of element produced is dangerous to humans in certain amounts, so their aim was to create a UV sensor that would single out the catalyst and find out which element it is producing. “We haven’t even done it yet, but we’re already excited,” Sandoval said.

Cal State LA student Erick Avalos’s group aimed to create a type of heart monitor that could be installed into self-driving cars. If a person’s heart rate were to reach zero, the monitor would be able to alert the car, and the car would pull over and call for help.  

Cal State LA student Tyler Powell’s group wanted to create a device that will detect the certain key tones that are produced in the breath of diabetics in order to make it easier for them to identify their blood sugar levels in replace of needles.  

Many more groups were working hard to develop their equally groundbreaking ideas, all made possible with the help of the various organizations giving these students a platform to apply their brilliant classroom knowledge into real life situations.

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Brave new world with innovative weekend-long BioHack