This article is written by Susan Malaika, originally posted on:

Pizza at Midnight : NYUAD Hackathon for Social Good

More than one hundred hackers, mentors, and judges from over thirty countries and universities converged on the idyllic campus of New York University – Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) to participate in the hackathon for social good founded by Professor Sana Odeh. Universities represented included Al Ain University of Science and Technology, Al Akhawayn University, American University of Beirut, Harvard, King Saud University, MIT, Oxford, Princeton, Stanford, Wellesley College, and Yale. Institutions represented included Bloomberg, CNN, Facebook, IBM, Google, Microsoft, United Nations, and great startups, some with connections to prior NYUAD hackathons.

The three-day programming marathon (agenda here) took place over an intense long spring weekend (26-29 April 2018) in Abu Dhabi. The experience included eating pizza at midnight as teams raced through the night to solve problems and deliver their hackathon projects – while entrepreneurs, faculty, students, industry professionals, and other participants indulged in intense tech discussions, initiated new projects, collaborations, and friendships that will last well beyond the hackathon itself.

Eighteen ideas, suggested by participants, to support refugees, minorities, and underprivileged, and to increase awareness and understanding of diverse cultures were reduced, through voting, to ten wonderful projects that were implemented by teams that formed during the hackathon. The projects were presented to outstanding judges on the final day. The projects were:

Boosala – Compass – Bring the lost home through the use of facial recognition technologies
Dawa – Medicine – Tackle counterfeit medications in the MENA region (hyperledger was at the core of the solution)
Huwayeti – My Identity – a blockchain hyperledger solution to manage the identity of refugees
Insahny – Advise Me – Collect in-class refugee camp live metrics of student participation using Emotion AI
Kuwaikeb – Small planets – An uplifting game for children to increase self-esteem and work against some of the recent self-harm games that have emerged on the Internet (2 amazing children participated in this project)
MedLughati – My Medical Language – to ease communication between medical staff and refugees through images, NLP & machine learning (Med Image Net was used)
Sawa – Together – A chat app to connect refugees to locals who want to learn colloquial Arabic.
ShoofChef – Sharing stories of Arabic cuisine via processing restaurant menus, recipes and more
Tataoua – Volunteer – An app to manage and foster volunteering with a leaderboard
Wadhafni – Hire me – an employee and employer matching app that operates through SMS benefiting the disadvantaged

The NYUAD hackathon for social good 2018
The teams presented, often extraordinary statistics, in support of their projects, e.g., the percentage of counterfeit medications in the region, or the number of refugees without any identification. The use of NLP (Natural language Processing), AI, and hyperledger was popular. Mentors were assigned to teams over the whole weekend and worked with the teams to overcome issues. The team assigned mentor approach helps build enduring relationships between mentors and hackers, and fosters community. Slack was used extensively through the event between and across teams. The code for the hackathon projects is posted on GitHub