Predictive Hebrew learning created by immigrants wins Jerusalem Hackathon

December 20, 2020

The hackathon was held online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The 5th annual Great Minds Hackathon, conducted virtually due to COVID-19. (photo credit: JERUSALEM COLLEGE OF TECHNOLOGY)

The 5th annual Great Minds Hackathon, conducted virtually due to COVID-19.

A software that helps people learning Hebrew was announced last Thursday as the winner of the 5th annual Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) Great Minds Hackathon, a 48-hour virtual event that included nearly 100 engineering and business students from the college. 

The hackathon was held online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The winning team was made up entirely of native English speakers — Elan Leonard, Jonah Lawrence, Yitzchak Meltz, and Eli Levin, all studying computer science in the school’s International Program. The immigrants were inspired to develop the software because of their struggles to learn Hebrew when they immigrated. The technology uses autocorrect for Hebrew and even allows to add vowels to the word, in effect making it much easier to understand the word’s meaning. 

Third place went to a team composed of JCT’s Israeli students, who worked on a challenge from Amazon

Web Services (AWS). This challenge was presented to students by AWS’s representative, Sagie Kerman, following a personal tragedy he endured. Three months ago, Kerman’s father suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, which is more of a rare incident that requires neurosurgery. Unfortunately, he was taken to the nearest hospital, but that facility did not possess the appropriate specialist.

After consulting multiple medical professionals, Kerman realized that this tragic situation hap

pens throughout the world. He wanted a technology that can direct first responders to hospitals that are better equipped for the medical emergency.The technology developed by JCT students at the hackathon is a software that ambulance services would install that registers patient symptoms, assists in a potential diagnosis, then connects with the most appropriate hospital based on parameters, such as beds, occupancy, and specific departments, in order to determine the best hospital for the ambulance to go to.

“Heart attacks and strokes are the #1 cause of death in the Western World. The time after a stroke is a very crucial time. If you miss it, survival rates and chances for disabilities greatly increase,” Kerman said. Hoping that this technology will help emergency services direct patients to the correct facility. 

“This is the second year I participated as a judge at the LevTech Hackathon. Last year, I was very impressed with the quality of products presented for a 3-day Hackathon, so I was a little worried that COVID might hurt the event this year,” said Amit Svarzenberg, Israel Partnerships Manager at Microsoft for Startups. 

He continued, “To my surprise, not only did the level not drop this year, but it went even beyond. Right after the event, I found myself talking about the product to my friends trying to learn Hebrew and to my mother-in-law who does linguistic editing for children’s books.”

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