Create the future!

Merck Hackathon

May 19-20, 2016 in Tel Aviv, Israel

“Create the Future!” – This was the message on the colorful signs that welcomed dozens of bright, young students from Israel’s best academic institutes to the Merck Hackathon in Israel. Engineers, scientists, programmers and communications students, from undergraduate to post-doctorate, all arrived at the Tel Aviv Convention Center on May 19th ready to spend the next 24 hours inventing, innovating, networking and, most importantly, having fun. The event was initiated and organized by the Innovation Center and Merck’s Business Technology division, along with Merck’s team in Israel. Just before the competition began, Mooly Eden, one of the world’s ten most brilliant technological minds according to the Fortune Magazine, gave the students an inspirational speech.


The Hackers chose from six challenges representing real problems that Merck employees are facing in their different departments:

  1. Find a unique way to use wearable tech (smart watches, Fitbits, etc.) as medical diagnostic tools.
  2. Utilize GPS sensors to optimize workflow and processes in laboratories and businesses.
  3. Tackle the growing problem of product counterfeiting currently threatening a number of industries, such as pharmaceuticals, electronics, and agriculture.
  4. Streamline the process in chemistry labs of digitizing their research tools and data.
  5. Improve the UI (user interface) of current lighting systems using more “steerable” technology.
  6. Develop a smartphone app that can mimic some of the functions of a microplate reader.

And the Winner is…

The solutions that the teams presented were all impressive, and the jury had a difficult time naming a winner.

Two teams of students shared the first prize. Both teams worked on challenge no. 6 and presented novel ideas in creating an application for mobile phones that will enable microplate reader based assays from Merck to be performed outside of the lab. One team designed an at-home kit called “Dropit” that can test for potential allergens in food, whereas the other designed a smartphone app “Spectrophone” that uses the flashlight as a spectrophotometer to diagnose preeclampsia.

Dropit was developed by Gilad Belkin (Ben Gurion University), Sivan Biham (Bar Ilan Universirty), Amaranta Kahn (Weizmann Institute of Science), Haim Schlesinger (Ariel University) and Michal Somekh (Bar Ilan University).

Spectrophone was invented by Yanai Elazar (Bar Ilan University), Elad Keyshawn (Ariel University), Nadav Shai and Shira Warszawski (both from the Weizmann Institute of Science).


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