George Hacks Receives a Donation from the Neilom Foundation

George Hacks is honored to have received a donation from the Neilon Foundation for our team’s collaborative effort during this pandemic. The donation was specifically given for our work in COVID related projects as well as our virtual engagement with our audience to promote our events and projects. 

The Neilom Foundation was founded in 2013 by GW alumnus Davinder Anand, a Mechanical Engineering Professor Emeritus and Director of the Center of Engineering Concepts Development (CECD) at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). Their mission is “To support a new generation of enthusiastic scientists and engineers creating positive social impact using technology.” 

The foundation supports their mission by fostering a community for engineers and scientists alike for the purpose of creating significant social impact. They do this in one of three ways; 

  1. Each year the Neilom Foundation hosts The Fresh Approach using Science and Technology video competition (FAST) for UMD students
  2. Hiring science and engineering Neilom Interns to work on social impact projects 
  3. “Awarding prizes and fellows to recognize and encourage outstanding contributions.”

Since its establishment, the Neilom Foundation has reached over 11,000 people, of which several individuals have been awarded. Among these awardees were George Hacks Former and Current Directors, Caitlyn Pratt and Karen Rius respectively, both of whom were awarded the Neilom Prize for Social Impact for their work during their undergraduate careers. In addition to individuals, the Neilom Foundation has also awarded 40 grants to Nonprofit organizations, George Hacks being one of them. 

Upon this donation George Hacks would like to thank the Neilson Foundation for their support as well as all of our partners, sponsors, GW faculty, and participants without which we would not have been able to develop into the organization we are now. 

George Hacks Former and Current Directors, Caitlyn Pratt and Karen Rius, Receive the Neilom Prize for Social Impact

George Hacks is proud to congratulate the GW Class of 2020! Each graduate has worked tirelessly to achieve his or her degree and leave a lasting legacy here at GW. Today and always, we celebrate how their dedication to learning and a passion to make a difference in the world have culminated into one outstanding achievement that foreshadows a promising future for society.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, GW graduates were not able to celebrate their long-awaited commencement ceremony on the National Mall this year. Invited instead to join the 2021 GW Commencement the following year, seniors and graduates were still recognized virtually through a series of videos that aired from May 14th to 17th.

The GW School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) recognized their own seniors in a SEAS Commencement Celebration on May 15th. At the ceremony, faculty members presented awards to recognize students that have made a significant impact on the SEAS community whether academically, socially, or otherwise. Among these awardees were George Hacks Former and Current Directors, Caitlyn Pratt and Karen Rius respectively, both of whom received the Neilom Prize for Social Impact.

The Neilom Foundation was founded in 2013 by GW alumnus Davinder Anand, a Mechanical Engineering Professor Emeritus and Director of the Center of Engineering Concepts Development (CECD) at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). Last year, Professor Anand was inducted into the GW Engineering Hall of Fame for his positive contributions to society, one of which is his own Neilom Foundation established in memory of his son Dilip Anand. The foundation’s mission: “To leverage the transformative power of mentoring and education through awards and grants that recognize, encourage and empower young people to generate and explore meaningful ideas and engage in activities with positive social impact that would lead to a better life.” Thus awards given to students from this foundation are in recognition of those who have made a positive social impact and change.  

This year marks the inaugural appearance of The Neilom Prize for Social Impact Award at GW. According to the Celebration Program for the 2020 SEAS Commencement Celebration, the award “is given to a junior or senior with a clear and articulated interest in the application of engineering to a particular area of social change.” With Caitlyn and Karen both actively involved in aiding SEAS’s response to the influx of COVID-19 related projects received by the school, we cannot think of any two individuals more deserving. We are proud of their dedication to these initiatives and their commitment to bestowing a positive social impact on the DC community even during this challenging time.

At the end of yet another academic year, George Hacks would like to close by thanking all the students that participated in Kogan Makerspace and our annual Medical Solutions Hackathon. We are also thankful to each of our partners, sponsors, and GW faculty for their continued support of our mission to promote an impact-driven healthcare innovation at GW. It is most certainly because of everyone’s support that George Hacks is the student organization it is today.

George Hacks Responds to COVID-19 Needs

During the worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19, many organizations across the GW campus have assumed a role to help the local DC community combat the crisis. Several interdisciplinary groups have teamed up with first responders to ideate innovative solutions ranging from 3D printing PPE to designing informative websites. Surpassing the ambition of these initiatives is the ability for project teams to collaboratively create these impactful designs with limited in-person contact. Some of these teams, in fact, have never met in person. 

Several GW students and faculty have been actively working on fabricating 3D printed masks and face shields for medical personnel. This project emerged as a response to the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) that numerous health care facilities across the nation have been facing. As more people test positive in recent months, the demand for PPE has significantly increased across hospitals across the world. When the GW Hospital experienced such a shortage, members from the GW School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), GW Hospital, GW Innovation Center (GWIC), George Hacks, and others pooled resources to work on addressing the need. Leading the 3D printing farm is Mr. Huckenpahler, a digital lab professor from the GW Corcoran School of Art and Design, who along with his team was able to  “produce 200 face shields for GW Hospital staff in just under a week” according to an article by GW Today. This monumental task was achieved by twelve 3D printers provided by the GW Corcoran School of the Arts & Design along with an additional six owned by George Hacks and GWIC.  

The same article mentions two other projects that students and faculty are working on to assist first responders. One of these projects is the production of N95 comparable respirators with “removable and replaceable units, some of which can be sanitized and reused unlike most N95 respirators.” This design was approved by the hospital’s own quality tests and is now being standardized, scaled to different sizes, and manufactured in bulk.

Another team of students and faculty led by David Lee and Carl Wick, former SEAS professors, is developing a touch-less hospital screening system. Their kiosk design provides a foot-pedal answering system for pre-screening questionnaires and allows one’s temperature to be measured from a distance, appropriately sending staff to the correct waiting areas. Doing so facilitates separation between people with and without fevers in order to vet those who are most likely to test positive for COVID-19.

Team members on this project include George Hacks Co-Founders, Konstantin Mitic and Caitlyn Pratt; former Technical Director, Matt Taylor; and George Hacks Director Karen Rius. With most of the GW campus closed down to the public, Matt transported the project to his apartment located only a few blocks from the GW Hospital. There he created a full workshop in his lounge, allowing him to seamlessly continue contributing to the kiosk project. His proximity to the hospital also provided Matt the convenience to test the kiosk on volunteers in person. Hence, he was able to observe and fix calibration errors in the thermometer before finalizing the systems. 

Aside from the shortage of PPE and lack of contact-free hospital screening methods, another issue that has drastically impacted the work environment of all medical professionals is the lack of a single compilation of latest COVID-19 medical and public health information relevant to their roles as first responders. In response to this need, Jordan Selzer of the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences Lance Hoffman, a GW computer science professor, recruited a group of SEAS and George Hacks students to design a website named Disaster Consult. According to another GW Today article, this website aims to “give care providers quick, digestible information about best practices in the face of various emergencies,” which is especially valuable for small medical facilities in rural areas at risk of being flooded with numerous patients in a short time. As these types of hospitals typically lack a trauma center, staff with specialized disaster training, and a protocol for dealing with large numbers of patients,  it is imperative they have access to reliable updates on the evolving pandemic without having to digest lengthy academic papers.

After the website design had been finalized, more than 50 third and fourth year medical student volunteers, who were unable to conduct their usual hospital rounds due to restrictions imposed by the pandemic, redirected their time towards compiling the content for the website. The tremendous assistance provided by these students allowed the website to be fully functional in under a month. Of course, the website is constantly undergoing development and improvement. Possible translation to a mobile application is expected.

George Hacks is proud to continue supporting the GW community in its endeavors to combat COVID-19. To get involved in some of these initiatives, visit the ‘Projects’ page of our website, or feel free to contact us with questions.

George Hacks Wishes Dr. David Lee the Best as He Retires from GW

This year, the George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) is saying goodbye to one of its own faculty members, Dr. David Lee. After coming to teach at GW in 2015, Professor Lee is retiring following the impactful legacy he has left with the school.

Five years ago, Lee became the Associate Professor of Practice in the Biomedical Engineering Department here at GW. Here, he taught biomedical engineering as the primary faculty advisor of the BME senior capstone course. Additionally, he taught BME undergraduates across all years, providing all of his students with valuable insights into the field of engineering as seen in practice.  Professor Lee constantly demonstrated his passion for education and strove to tailor learning curriculums towards guaranteeing the success of future engineers.

Specifically for George Hacks, Professor Lee’s long standing support will forever be cherished. Alongside Professor Zara, he has consistently been an invaluable mentor to our team. During his time here, he was also an active volunteer at each of our three annual Medical Solutions Hackathons to date. Not only did he encourage his students to participate in these events, but he also assisted numerous participants in idea formation and design optimization in person at the event. Without his unconditional support, George Hacks wouldn’t be the organization that it is today. 

Students and past participants had this to say about Professor Lee; 

It was an honor to be an LA for Professor Lee’s freshman seminar class this past semester. His dedication shows both in and out of the classroom, and his focus on a well-rounded engineering education with an emphasis on human centered design encouraged me to explore unique applications of biomedical engineering.

Giavanna Corazza, SEAS ‘22, Past Participant & George Hacks Team Member

Professor Lee always challenged me in unique ways in his freshman BME 1020 course and for that I am forever grateful. He helped me develop an engineering mindset and that it is okay to think outside the box. It was a pleasure to have Dr.Lee as a professor and to work alongside him as a teaching assistant this past spring semester. Thank you Professor Lee for all your words of encouragement and advice. You will truly be missed.

Justina Pruski, SEAS ‘21, Past Participant

Thank you Professor Lee for continuing to guide the BME class from our first BME 1010 course all the way through Capstone. You have taught us valuable lessons and have shaped our attitude, mentality, and the way we think to be better engineers. Best of luck in your future adventures and enjoy your well-deserved retirement!

Camille Daszynski, SEAS ‘20, Past Participant

George Hacks will miss Professor David Lee greatly as he moves forward from GW. Not only has he been a key advisor and supporter of our organization, but he also fulfilled an integral role in our SEAS community. During his time here, he passionately taught students the engineering mindset and was a mentor to many. He truly exemplified what it means to lead by example and we wish him all the best in all his future endeavors.

We are so grateful for the time, commitment, and mentorship Dr. Lee has shown the George Hacks team and participants. He has come to every one of our events since the very first George Hacks medical hackathon, and we look forward to inviting him back to GW for all our future events.

Caitlyn Pratt, SEAS ’20, Former Director of George Hacks

George Hacks Faculty Advisor, Dr. Jason Zara, Is Awarded the 2020 Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Prize for Teaching Excellence

This year the George Washington University celebrated its Tenth Annual Faculty Honors Ceremony. Every year, notable faculty members are selected from a variety of schools for their “extraordinary dedication to teaching, scholarship, and the university.” Hosted by the office of the Provost and the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, this ceremony aims to honor remarkable faculty members at GW.  Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, live celebrations have been postponed, but award winners will still be recognized virtually. 

Several faculty members from the GW School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) won awards during the virtual ceremony, including the Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Prize for Teaching Excellence. Established in 1990 by President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, it is presented to a faculty member who demonstrates excellence in teaching, defined as “the accurate and effective communication to undergraduate students of important cultural, historical, or scientific material, as well as current scholarship and scholarly debates in the fields involved.” The award is presented to a professor nominated and endorsed by undergraduate students and their department respectively. 

This year, George Hacks is proud to congratulate Professor Jason Zara for winning this award. As a devoted member in the SEAS community, he has exemplified remarkable dedication to both GW and his students.  An accomplished engineer, Professor Zara has won numerous other awards, founded two start-ups, and holds seven U.S patents.  Additionally, he has worked for the last 18 years in developing medical imaging technology for detection of “epithelial cancers, epilepsy, and other human diseases”. Nonetheless, Professor Zara remains an integral member of SEAS, taking the time to mentor students and strengthen the GW Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Recap | George Hacks Third Annual Medical Solutions Hackathon

The George Hacks Third Annual Medical Solutions Hackathon commenced on the morning of Saturday, January 25th. Beginning at noon, 18 teams worked to devise a solution to one of 12 problem statements pitched by a local healthcare organization. Only twenty-four hours later, teams demonstrated and pitched their solutions for the chance to win prizes.

George Hacks Medical Solutions 2020 Recap Video

The event began with Opening Ceremonies featuring Rob Jones, a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran whose inspirational journey as a double-above-the-knee amputee led him to submit an innovation challenge at the 2019 Medical Solutions Hackathon. Following his keynote speech, representatives of various DMV healthcare organizations presented their problem statements to participants. Soon after, participants formed teams of up to four students and decided upon the challenge they wanted to pursue over the next 24 hours.

Rob Jones | Opening Ceremonies Keynote Speaker

In working through their challenges, students were able to consult with experienced mentors, utilize technical materials, and attend workshops relevant to their projects. Arduino, Raspberry-Pi, 3D Modeling with Fusion 360, and Application Development Workshops allowed teams to integrate a technical aspect into their solutions while a How-to-Pitch-Your-Idea Workshop provided tips on effective communication of those solutions to in a typical entrepreneurial setting.

As the event proceeded into the night, participants found opportunities to break from their projects, including networking with pitch presenters and mentors, grabbing free food from the snack table, attending a free yoga session, and destressing through a midnight nerf gun tournament! A few persistent teams stayed the night adding the final few finishing details to their projects in preparation for the next morning.

Early on Sunday, January 26th, teams prepared for two rounds of judging. The first round was a demo round, in which students were tasked to demonstrate their prototype and/or explain the technicalities of their methods to solve their selected problem statement. Closely following the first judging round was the pitch round, which focused more heavily on the marketability and business plan of each team’s venture. Based on the scores from both rounds, teams were now in the run to win big.

Closing ceremonies saw the presentation of awards to the three highest overall scores as well as two spot prizes, one for Best Implementation of Hardware and another for Best Pitch. GW President Thomas Leblanc delivered closing remarks followed by final comments from the GW Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, GW Technology Commercialization Office, and the GW Innovation Center.

President LeBlanc | Closing Remarks

George Hacks would like to acknowledge our event sponsors and partners as well as our judges, mentors, and volunteers for their time and support. Thank you also to our participants who made our event a resounding success. We look forward to seeing you again next year at the George Hacks Fourth Annual Medical Solutions Hackathon in 2021!

Special thank you to our Medical Solutions 2020 sponsors & partners!

For a more detailed event summary, feel free to download our post-event booklet below!

George Hacks Faculty Advisor, Dr. Jason Zara, awarded $25,000 grant from the KEEN Foundation

Our faculty advisor, Jason Zara, was awarded a $25,000 grant from the KEEN Foundation for a project titled “Engineering for the Public Good.” Dr. Zara  will work with Annamaria Konya Tannon (GW Innovation Center) and GW Engineering to develop community engagement projects that focus on the development of an entrepreneurial engineering mindset.

KEEN consists of a network of universities that focus on developing an entrepreneurial mindset in engineering undergraduates. KEEN strives to help students learn how to be curious about the problems surrounding them, make connections between multiple areas of information, and create value for the world by developing engineering solutions to important problems. GW joined KEEN in the fall of 2018.

We are very proud of Professor Zara’s work to improve our undergraduate students education!

Dr. Jason Zara (BME) and Dr. Vesna Zderic (BME) attended the KEEN National Conference, held January 3-5 in Dallas, TX.

George Hacks partners with the Veterans Health Administration

Last month, the Veterans Health Administration became an official partner of George Hacks. We are proud to join the VHA to highlight the many areas in which students can improve the lives of U.S. Veterans living with a wide range of disabilities incurred while serving our country.

At the 2019 Medical Solutions Hackathon, attending local veterans gave students the unique opportunity to address their personal medical needs, ranging from prosthetic adaptations for outdoor activities to medical examination accessibility.

We are incredibly grateful to be able to give our competitors the opportunity to improve the lives of those who dedicated their lives to improving ours, and we look forward to broadening our impact in continuing our engagement with the veteran population in future events.