Student innovation shines in Animal Health Hackathon

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Source: Cornell University, Melanie Greaver Cordova

Teams seeking to improve medicine delivery to dairy cows, use soft robotics for artificial insemination, and to monitor and modify cat-scratching behavior won awards at the sixth annual Animal Health Hackathon, held virtually Feb. 4-6.

Co-hosted by the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), the Center for Veterinary Business and Entrepreneurship, and Entrepreneurship at Cornell, this event brought together participants from diverse majors, schools and institutions to address current needs in veterinary health care.

This year, 120 students in 24 teams competed virtually for awards in three categories, assisted by 48 mentors from veterinary medicine, research and industry who advised them over the course of the weekend. Students represented disciplines across the Cornell campuses in Ithaca and New York City. The Cornell SC Johnson College of Business had the highest representation with 37 students, followed by the College of Engineering with 29 and CVM with 20. Six participants represented other veterinary colleges and universities across the United States.

Each team brainstormed solutions to challenges submitted by event sponsors and partners, on topics including curbing mastitis in dairy cows, improving data security, house training dogs, recruiting staff and dispensing vaccines. Students pitched their ideas to these challenges and formed groups based on interest and discipline. After brainstorming, development and feedback over the next 48 hours, teams then presented their demos to a panel of judges.

Participants also had a chance to network and hear from guest speakers, featuring Erin Chu ’10, DVM ’14, Ph.D. ’17, life sciences lead at Amazon Web Services, and Shadi Ireifej, DVM ’06, founder and chief medical officer of VetTriage.

Sunday’s awards ceremony capped off the fast-paced weekend, with $9,000 in prizes divided evenly among the winning teams.

The winners were:

  • Most Innovative Award: Team Seal the Deal for “Seal the Deal,” a device that can deliver both antibiotics and teat sealant to dairy cattle without removing the needle in the teat. Team members included: James Duong and Ari Padda from SC Johnson, Lauren Harper from CVM and Jonathan Zirkiev from Hunter College.
  • Best Vet Health Care Solution Award: Team Koalificated for “AirTech,” a noninvasive alternative to modern artificial insemination using soft robotics. Team members included: Erik Bielski, Daeden Gordon-Somers-Archer, Maya Kulikowski, Harry Samuels and Zachary Suarez, all from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
  • Most Market Ready Award: Team Very Good Team for “No Scratch Meow,” which monitors and modifies cat scratching behavior. Team members included: Vrijen Attawar, Michael Lin and Sam Pevsner from SC Johnson; Kaitlin Murphy from the University of Pennsylvania; Karan Patel from the College of Engineering and Shivnai Tuli from Weill Cornell Medicine.

The Animal Health Hackathon is among a range of initiatives spearheaded by the Center for Veterinary Business and Entrepreneurship. The center also launched dedicated coursework for veterinary students interested in building their management and innovation skills, including the “Agile Innovation” course, which requires students to participate in the hackathon. Five students from the course were among the winning teams.

Sponsors for this year’s event included Encore Vet Group, IDEXX, Boehringer Ingelheim, Zoetis, RareBreed Veterinary Partners, Elanco, VetTriage, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets, IBM, Veterinary Emergency Group and the Veterinary Angel Network.

Melanie Greaver Cordova is assistant director of communications at the College of Veterinary Medicine.