KAUST Partners with Geeks Valley for Virtual Open Source Ventilator Hackathon

KAUST recently partnered with Geeks Valley, a 2016 graduate from 9/10ths Startup Accelerator, a Takamol startup accelerator managed by KAUST, to deliver the Open Source Ventilator Hackathon (OSV).  The virtual online hackathon was designed for participants across the Middle East to develop as many open-sourced solutions as possible for the designing and manufacturing of easy to use, cost-effective ventilators that can be produced using 3D printing technology. The virtual event ran from April 23 – May 15 with a showcase on May 19, 2020.

The hackathon was developed due to the stress on healthcare sectors from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has resulted in high demand for ventilators. In particular, there is a lack of artificial respirators in the Middle East which puts infected patients at greater risk of negative outcomes. Each team that participated produced an actual working model – not just a design.

Continuing KAUST’s effort in finding solutions to new challenges and developing innovative programs, the university partnered with Geeks Valley as well as the Saudi Health Council, National Health Information Center, Falak, Royal Commission of Jubail and Yanbu, and Monsha’at to bring about the OSV as a response to the global challenge of the high demand on ventilators and creating an opportunity to meet this demand.

The teams selected to participate in the hackathon all consisted of 3 members – including a professional physician and a technical/engineering specialist. Through an online development platform, the teams received continuous support and guidance while having access through the partnership to various resources. Throughout the process, teams were able to consult with KAUST industry experts and mentors along the way, learning about 3D product design, commercialization, legal services and entrepreneurship. Judges then evaluated the criteria of the products submitted by each team and then went on to award the top 3 for the best design at the conclusion of the hackathon.

“During this unprecedented time, KAUST is very keen to contribute in whatever way we can in order to help people and with that in mind, continue to innovate and create something that could save lives,” said Hattan Ahmed, Head of KAUST Entrepreneurship Center. “Entrepreneurship and innovation is open to everyone – it’s not limited to those from a certain industry or a certain place. We have been impressed by the great minds in the MENA region and the innovation and creative energy who participated in this challenge to make their ideas a reality.”

Participants were also able to participate in on-going webinars hosted by expert international speakers such as David Cuartielles, founder of Arduino, who spoke about global experiments on manufacturing ventilators. Additionally, Ahmed Nashat Jaafar, an industrial electronic engineer, expounded on the role of 3D printing technology in solving critical challenges.

Ultimately, the teams submitted a report and judges evaluated the criteria of the products to select the winning submissions. All the winners were able to join and benefit – albeit virtually – from the manufacturing incubator in Jubail and its services. Winners also were given the chance to present the project idea to the Social Development Bank for funding and had the opportunity to present their prototype to investors via the online platform.

The 1st place winner was the “Dual Backup Ventilator (DBV)”, a locally produced ventilator with two internal fans that can be used on two different patients at the same time. Each member of the team was awarded a 3D printer.

“I am very thankful to win first place at the Open Source Ventilator competition,” said Sami Asali, a DBV team member. “This experience has been great and I hope that due to the high demand on ventilators, our easy-to-use ventilator design will help the health sector in the region to manufacture as many ventilators as possible with low-cost and fast production. Thanks to Geeks Valley and to all the partners for giving us the opportunity to create designs that will contribute in the COVID-19 crisis.”

Other winners included “Breath” in 2nd place and “The Manufacturing Club” in 3rd place.

Geeks Valley: a KAUST Startup Accelerator Graduate

Geeks Valley is a startup graduate of 9/10ths Accelerator which aims to develop early-stage entrepreneurs and their concepts into new, high-potential startups and to accelerate the development of the Saudi Arabian startup ecosystem. Geeks Valley is an e-commerce service provider that supports digital manufacturing and innovation by providing an educational platform with an online store to help people from all age groups innovate new technologies and products. The OSV Hackathon came out of the need to help in the global fight against the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

“From our time in their accelerator program to, now, a partner in our hackathon, KAUST has always been very supportive,” said Taher Alblowi, Founder of Geeks Valley.  “We can’t thank KAUST and the Entrepreneurship Center team enough for their continuous support. This event has been a successful one in no small part to their contributions and generosity and we are truly grateful.”

KAUST has significant expertise in designing and implementing innovation hackathons, competitions, startup accelerators, and entrepreneurship training in Saudi Arabia. With over 11,000 innovators who have graduated from its programs, KAUST is a hub of innovation for local and international startups. Over the past decade, KAUST has actively played a role in growing the Kingdom’s ecosystem for early-stage entrepreneurs, graduating over 250 startups from its collaboration training programs, and backing 56 startups through its KAUST Innovation venture fund.

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