Winning team of JCT Women's Hackathon Photo credit: Jerusalem College of Technology.

JCT Women’s Hackathon Produces Solutions for Pandemic’s Acute Needs

Virtual dating platform resembling face-to-face dating environment with interactive games crowned winner of latest hackathon to address challenges as a result of COVID-19

Jerusalem, June 23, 2020 — Close to 100 students from the Jerusalem College of Technology’s (JCT) Tal and Lustig campuses for women, comprised of religious and Ultra-Orthodox students, on Friday completed a 44-hour online hackathon (technology marathon) in which they designed and marketed innovative solutions for populations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The winning product, announced on Friday morning, was the design of a virtual platform to enable singles to interact in ways that resemble face-to-face dates. In addition, the product also created interactive activities the potential couple could do together like a simultaneous cooking competition, online card games, and a spinning wheel for discussion topics.

A mother participating in the Hackathon with her child. Photo credit: Jerusalem College of Technology.

In the religious and Ultra-Orthodox communities, where partnership and marriage are of the utmost importance, COVID-19 has had a damaging impact as in-person dating has been impossible. The winning team of more than 20 students created an innovative solution to try and make dating a reality, virtually. The product is launching in the dating world, but this platform and its interactive games can be expanded for relationship building of any kind.

Other challenges students were tasked with at the hackathon included building a platform for people to support small businesses by buying from them and donating the products to groups and organizations such as medical teams, security teams, and nursing homes; improving access to medical and educational services for at-risk youths in times of crisis; linking artists and homebound populations for interactive performances; and creating a system to recruit massive numbers of volunteers for emergency situations.

The expert judges who evaluated the proposed technological solutions were Yonit Serkin, Managing Director of MassChallenge; Anat Greemland, Vice President of Strategy at Scale-Up Velocity; Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem; Galia Kut, an entrepreneur and investor, Efrat Weiss, Director of Synamedia; and Michal Wosk, Developers Marketing Manager at Microsoft.

“COVID 19 has created major challenges for small businesses, non profits and artists, teens-at-risk and young people looking to launch relationships. But it has also created incredible opportunities for new technologies and solutions to help those who need them most. The technologies built and developed by the students at the Jerusalem College of Technology’s Women’s Hackathon are a great illustration that great ideas can come from everywhere and that together, we can create new realities for our communities.”

Yonit Serkin, Managing Director of MassChallenge

While JCT’s annual hackathons are usually bustling in-person events, the college replicated that environment remotely by shipping decorated boxes to participants which included hackathon t-shirts, coffee cups, water bottles, energy bars, and special face masks for the competition. Online games allowed participants to release energy in between their action-packed hours of programming, developing marketing strategies, and creating business plans.

In previous years, hackathon teams have worked on exhibiting a proof of concept for their solutions. But for this event, due to the significant and immediate needs emanating from the pandemic, teams were challenged with creating a functional and scalable product that is ready for market. Students were supported by mentors from different professions who offered preparatory seminars during the week leading up to the hackathon, enabling the women to expand their knowledge about programming, marketing, and delivering public presentations. The mentors all came with years of experience in developing products in industry and were incredibly helpful in order to advance the product’s development. The hackathon is the most recent example of empowering religious women and breaking the glass ceiling in technical education with indispensable learning experiences in advance of their entry into the real-life employment market. JCT trains close to 20 percent of all women studying computer science in Israel.

“Given the ongoing emergence of acute needs arising from coronavirus, there was no doubt that this year’s hackathon for women should focus on creative, practical, and immediate solutions which address the pandemic’s challenges,” said Orlee Guttman, JCT’s Director of Strategic Partnerships and co-Founder of the college’s LevTech Entrepreneurship Center. “We are hopeful and confident that the hackathon’s participants, as well as various other ambitious young women and men who are studying at JCT, will become respected industry leaders on the front-lines of the pandemic in the months and years to come.”

The hackathon’s focus on COVID-19 was an extension of “TakeAction,” a LevTech program which leverages the college’s resources to address emerging needs in social service and emergency relief during the pandemic. As part of TakeAction, JCT students, graduates, and faculty members have worked on technological solutions for the Magen David Adom emergency medical service; Zichron Menachem, which supports children with cancer and their families; and Melabev, which serves patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“Jerusalem College of Technology has proven that the best post Corona solutions come from the combination of sharp technological skills and sensitivity to the real needs of people. I was proud to have been a part of that,” added Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem.

About JCT

Established in 1969, the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) is one of Israel’s most prestigious and unique academic institutions with a focus on science and technology. JCT supplies highly skilled, professional graduates to Israel’s and the world’s high-tech industry. In addition, we are the only institution of higher learning committed to providing the highest quality academic education to diverse segments of Israeli society who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to enter these fields. JCT offers exclusive programs developed specifically for Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men and women and for other demographic groups.

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