| Hackathon

Makerthon review: from zero to prototype in 3 weeks

Is it possible to create a hardware solution that solves a healthcare or IoT focused challenge in just three weeks? The final pitch event at the Merck Innovation Center for the “Makerthon”, a joint initiative between Merck and Deutsche Telekom, gave us the answer: YES!!

At the Makerthon kick-off event at Deutsche Telekom’s HQ in Bonn on 15th November, 76 participants working in 11 teams started their quest to develop business concepts accompanied with hardware prototypes for one of the following challenges:

  • Bio-sensors: Create a seamlessly integrated solution for a medical need
  • Smart physical sensors: Make use of printable photodetectors
  • Smart factory: Create an automated production environment
  • IoT in hospitals: Enable doctors to react efficiently in emergency settings
  • Health data platforms: Develop a holistic business case based on health data

The participants  included scientists, designers, developers, marketing experts, medical doctors and healthcare professionals, as well as students. The overall goal was to develop a completely new solution that pushes the boundaries of innovation at the interface between healthcare and IoT. The new, flexible format provided the teams with access to two fully equipped Makerspaces. Mentoring and coaching was provided by the Challenge Owners and other topic experts from Merck and Deutsche Telekom. Overall, the whole event was also supported by the Institute for Digital Transformation in Healthcare (idigiT) of University Witten/Herdecke.

After three weeks of development, the teams had the option to work at the Merck Innovation Center for a full 24 hours before the final pitch event on December 8th. This created a hackathon-style atmosphere in which the tension mounted until preparations were finished, pitches completed, and it was finally time to reveal the winners:

  • 1st prize: Team ‘VED4MS’ received €10,000 for their headset for multiple sclerosis patients that monitors visually evoked potentials (VEP) and includes an EEG microcontroller platform to predict relapses.
  • 2nd prize: ‘HoLoX’ team members each received a smartphone in recognition of their affordable solution for helping hospitals avoid running out of critical supplies, consumables and utilities.

Three more teams were awarded for their outstanding concepts:

  • Game Changer Award: Team ‘Tim’s Digital Natives’ created a health service platform leveraging voice technology
  • Need identifier Award: Team ‘JuYaa’ created a sensor-based approach to objectify the subjective suffering of fatigue patients
  • Makers-by-heart Award: Team ‘T11’ impressed the jury by merging a credit card with a tan generator into one device based on newly developed materials from Merck.

Moreover, all 5 winning teams also received a special trophy each, individually created by the Makerspace team of the Merck Innovation Center.

The overall standard of results produced by the teams was so high and impressive that three additional winner categories were created to reflect the extremely high standard of the submissions. The three teams ‘SpectralPals’, ‘Streamteam’, and ‘iService Call’ were put in spotlight through this.

Some of the teams already plan to patent their idea, found a startup, or even set up the first (pre-clinical) trials to validate their solutions – with Merck and Deutsche Telekom committed to support bringing these great ideas to the next level.