Written by WWCode HQ
In June and July of 2020, Women Who Code hosted a three-part Machine Learning for Social Good Workshop series to conceive new ways to combat COVID-19. Workshop participants harnessed the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence via Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) SageMaker models to develop their ideas.
The workshop concluded on August 19th with WWCode’s first-ever virtual hackathon titled Mission: Predictable. Over 200 registered participants divided into 52 teams competed for $5,000 in AWS credits and a year-long subscription to A Cloud Guru. Out of 20 completed projects submitted on August 14th, seven teams were selected to present their projects to judges from both A Cloud Guru and AWS.
Projects included machine learning models that could:
- Predict critical factors that impact a population’s vulnerability to coronavirus, and thus its likelihood of contracting it;
- Predict when hospitals would reach capacity in specific locations, given available data about symptomatic patients, hospital beds, and trauma room procedures.
Who Won Mission: Predictable?
The top seven hackathon teams were:
- The Architechts;
- Sharonda and Omega;
- Bits n’ Bytes Team;
- Hack Elite;
- Adele Goldberg;
- Ada Lovelace;
- Karen Sparck-Jones.
The Architechts claimed victory after a close competition. Their project entailed creating a website that medical staff could access to determine whether a COVID-19 patient was likely to require intubation. The pandemic has increased demand for intubation supplies, so this machine-learning enhanced website aggregates data such as patients’ age, gender, and pre-existing conditions to optimize intubation supply chain planning.
The members of The Architechts included:
- Claire Houston — Senior AI Engineer at Kainos Software;
- Claire Burn — Software Engineer II at Rapid7 and WWCode Global Ambassador;
- Chloe Thompson — Data and Analytics intern at Aflac;
- Lauren Burns — Associate Software Engineer at Kainos Software;
- Mary-Jane McBride — Software Engineer at Importwise.
Why the Hackathon Was Valuable
Hackathons are exciting because they bring people from diverse technical backgrounds together. Building a project isn’t only about the programming — you need UX designers, project managers, software engineers, data analysts, and more. Moving this year’s hackathon online also opened the door to contributors from around the world.
Most Mission: Predictable participants did not already know each other, so they had to learn to trust one another quickly to create a project worthy of the judges’ approval. It’s a high-stakes community-building exercise that requires participants to combine their strengths and the four key elements of innovation in a short timeframe: collaboration, ideation, implementation, and value creation. Teams that do so successfully have an opportunity to make a tangible difference in the world and create a project that others can expand on even after the event is over. Bits n’ Bytes Team member, Giovanna Galleno, says:
“Being part of this exciting hackathon was an enriching experience. It allowed me to grow as a professional and afforded me an opportunity to apply my soft and technical skills to a real-world impact case. My incredible teammates made this all possible.”
Hackathons are also excellent entry points into technology. In an industry infamous for gatekeeping, hackathons allow people of any level to participate and learn from each other. Mission: Predictable’s youngest participant (and a member of one of our Top Seven teams) was still in high school. Companies that sponsor hackathons, such as AWS and A Cloud Guru, get to test their products with real users, and contributors have a chance to experiment with sponsors’ latest technology.
As the pandemic continues requiring us to isolate, the WWCode community intends to connect people digitally and create a sense of belonging. Events like Mission: Predictable and other hackathons are integral to creating online community spaces where people can
explore new technology, generate ideas, and build relationships.
You can watch the Machine Learning for Social Good workshop series and Mission: Predictable on the WWCode YouTube Channel.