Judges at the 2016 NYUAD Hackathon wait for the start of the ceremony to announce the winners of the competition. (Delores Johnson / The National)
Judges at the 2016 NYUAD Hackathon wait for the start of the ceremony to announce the winners of the competition. (Delores Johnson / The National)

How a hackathon can solve the region’s problems



What happens when you bring together people of all races, ages, genders and geographies to tackle today’s social issues through technology? Every April, students, mentors and judges from all over the world gather at NYU Abu Dhabi with their laptops and ideas to do just that and to contribute to social good in the Arab world.

With all the good technology can do, it is surprising that the field is currently quite homogeneous. Without ethnic, racial, geographic and gender diversity, so many crucial perspectives are neglected. This is the problem that the “NYU Abu Dhabi International Hackathon for Social Good”, which finishes tomorrow evening, is working to overcome. Studies have shown again and again that as diversity within a team increases, so does its productivity, innovation and financial returns.

Last year, the NYU Abu Dhabi hackathon had 50 per cent female participation. Participants flew in from all corners of the globe to the UAE. The diversity of this year’s hackathon is better still.

Much of the work that is done around social issues comes from a western-centric perspective. The NYU Abu Dhabi hackathon provides a new lens through which to approach social issues in the dynamic and ever-changing Middle East and North Africa region. And NYU Abu Dhabi specifically incubates the value of knowledge that diversity can produce, making it the perfect meeting point for these ideas.

In 2016, the winning team at the NYU Abu Dhabi hackathon produced an application called “Qusasat” or Arabic snippets. Qusasat is a crowdsourcing solution for Arabic text digitisation by allowing users who can read and type Arabic on their phones to translate text images, and collect points that can be donated or cashed.

The social advantages behind this idea are increasing Arabic digital content and acting as an additional source of income for Arabic speakers to ultimately improve optical character recognition technology in Arabic.

Other projects include Sadiki, a personal assistant for refugees, and Fahmt, an in-line translator for informal Arabic and English. Mentors and students continued research and work towards this project even after the hackathon was over.

The formation of ideas is truly one of the unique and most valuable aspects of this hackathon. A person who has never lived in the Middle East, where Arabic literature accessibility might be a problem, may not be aware of the existing issue.

However, they may have an idea of how to solve this problem that is totally revolutionary to someone who does know the ins and outs of the problem.

The range of ideas that come about by bringing together so much ambition, intelligence and creativity from such varied backgrounds is truly astounding.

Previous projects have included a wearable device to monitor construction worker health, which ultimately influenced continued research into such a device by Farah Shamout, NYU Abu Dhabi alumna and Rhodes Scholar, in her senior year capstone thesis.

In hackathons around the world, there is a fascination with the latest trends in technology: artificial intelligence, virtual reality, chatbots, natural language processing. Similarly, we look up to the revolutionary figures in the industry: Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates and Musk.

While these trends and leaders have brought us the technology industry as we know it, there is something inherently flawed about only following these trends and leaders.

The NYU Abu Dhabi hackathon puts hackers to work on problems that might not be considered trendy or glamorous – but the problems are real and the outcomes valuable for people all around the world.

You can see the investment in the projects far beyond the 72 hours of the hackathon. Many teams start thinking about their ideas well in advance, and continue working on them even after the hackathon is over.

Lama Ahmed is a student at NYU Abu Dhabi and a participant at the hackathon

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

The Gandhi Murder
  • 71 - Years since the death of MK Gandhi, also christened India's Father of the Nation
  • 34 - Nationalities featured in the film The Gandhi Murder
  • 7 - million dollars, the film's budget 
How Beautiful this world is!
The specs: Taycan Turbo GT

Engine: Dual synchronous electric motors
Power: 1,108hp
Torque: 1,340Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic (front axle); two-speed transmission (rear axle)
Touring range: 488-560km
Price: From Dh928,400
On sale: Orders open

THE SPECS
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Transmission: 9-speed automatc
Power: 279hp
Torque: 350Nm
Price: From Dh250,000
On sale: Now

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

How Alia's experiment will help humans get to Mars

Alia’s winning experiment examined how genes might change under the stresses caused by being in space, such as cosmic radiation and microgravity.

Her samples were placed in a machine on board the International Space Station. called a miniPCR thermal cycler, which can copy DNA multiple times.

After the samples were examined on return to Earth, scientists were able to successfully detect changes caused by being in space in the way DNA transmits instructions through proteins and other molecules in living organisms.

Although Alia’s samples were taken from nematode worms, the results have much bigger long term applications, especially for human space flight and long term missions, such as to Mars.

It also means that the first DNA experiments using human genomes can now be carried out on the ISS.

 

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Turning waste into fuel

Average amount of biofuel produced at DIC factory every month: Approximately 106,000 litres

Amount of biofuel produced from 1 litre of used cooking oil: 920ml (92%)

Time required for one full cycle of production from used cooking oil to biofuel: One day

Energy requirements for one cycle of production from 1,000 litres of used cooking oil:
▪ Electricity - 1.1904 units
▪ Water- 31 litres
▪ Diesel – 26.275 litres

Brief scores:

Kashima Antlers 0

River Plate 4

Zuculini 24', Martinez 73', 90+2', Borre 89' (pen)

EA Sports FC 24

Developer: EA Vancouver, EA Romania
Publisher: EA Sports
Consoles: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4&5, PC and Xbox One
Rating: 3.5/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Company profile

Name: Infinite8

Based: Dubai

Launch year: 2017

Number of employees: 90

Sector: Online gaming industry

Funding: $1.2m from a UAE angel investor

Company Profile

Company name: Yeepeey

Started: Soft launch in November, 2020

Founders: Sagar Chandiramani, Jatin Sharma and Monish Chandiramani

Based: Dubai

Industry: E-grocery

Initial investment: $150,000

Future plan: Raise $1.5m and enter Saudi Arabia next year

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

THE SPECS

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Power: 258hp at 5,000-6,500rpm

Torque: 400Nm from 1,550-4,400rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 6.4L/100km

Price, base: from D215,000 (Dh230,000 as tested)

On sale: now

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

If you go

The flights 

Emirates flies from Dubai to Funchal via Lisbon, with a connecting flight with Air Portugal. Economy class returns cost from Dh3,845 return including taxes.

The trip

The WalkMe app can be downloaded from the usual sources. If you don’t fancy doing the trip yourself, then Explore  offers an eight-day levada trails tour from Dh3,050, not including flights.

The hotel

There isn’t another hotel anywhere in Madeira that matches the history and luxury of the Belmond Reid's Palace in Funchal. Doubles from Dh1,400 per night including taxes.

 

 

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
The BIO:

He became the first Emirati to climb Mount Everest in 2011, from the south section in Nepal

He ascended Mount Everest the next year from the more treacherous north Tibetan side

By 2015, he had completed the Explorers Grand Slam

Last year, he conquered K2, the world’s second-highest mountain located on the Pakistan-Chinese border

He carries dried camel meat, dried dates and a wheat mixture for the final summit push

His new goal is to climb 14 peaks that are more than 8,000 metres above sea level

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

Pakistanis at the ILT20

The new UAE league has been boosted this season by the arrival of five Pakistanis, who were not released to play last year.

Shaheen Afridi (Desert Vipers)
Set for at least four matches, having arrived from New Zealand where he captained Pakistan in a series loss.

Shadab Khan (Desert Vipers)
The leg-spin bowling allrounder missed the tour of New Zealand after injuring an ankle when stepping on a ball.

Azam Khan (Desert Vipers)
Powerhouse wicketkeeper played three games for Pakistan on tour in New Zealand. He was the first Pakistani recruited to the ILT20.

Mohammed Amir (Desert Vipers)
Has made himself unavailable for national duty, meaning he will be available for the entire ILT20 campaign.

Imad Wasim (Abu Dhabi Knight Riders)
The left-handed allrounder, 35, retired from international cricket in November and was subsequently recruited by the Knight Riders.

Martin Sabbagh profile

Job: CEO JCDecaux Middle East

In the role: Since January 2015

Lives: In the UAE

Background: M&A, investment banking

Studied: Corporate finance

Indika

Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Publisher: Odd Meter
Console: PlayStation 5, PC and Xbox series X/S
Rating: 4/5

The biog

Name: Timothy Husband

Nationality: New Zealand

Education: Degree in zoology at The University of Sydney

Favourite book: Lemurs of Madagascar by Russell A Mittermeier

Favourite music: Billy Joel

Weekends and holidays: Talking about animals or visiting his farm in Australia

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000


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