The next generation of social innovators will put their heads together in support of two neurological conditions this weekend at Canada’s first wellness hackathon. Hosted by the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences and the Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (MAREP) at Waterloo, Hack4Health is putting a spin on conventional hackathons by developing new hardware, software and social applications to improve the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s disease or multiple sclerosis (MS).
“Hackathons typically bring together computer programmers to create new technology or solve problems,” said Professor Karla Boluk, who is co-leading the initiative. “We have an amazing innovation ecosystem at Waterloo and it is incumbent upon us as faculty and staff to not only create platforms by way of pitch competitions, but also nurture the social impact of our students.”
Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 750,000 Canadians and is expected to double due to an aging population by 2031. Canada has the highest rate of MS in the world. Symptoms can range from vision problems, numbness and tingling to mobility issues.
“The significance of both of these neurological conditions in our local and national communities necessitates disease innovations to help improve quality of life while we wait for a cure,” said Lisa Loiselle, associate director of research for MAREP and co-organizer of the event.
Leading tech experts, occupational therapists and individuals living with or affected by MS, Alzheimer’s or other related dementias will mentor participants throughout the event. Massage therapists and round-the-clock catering is lined up to maintain energy levels and keep ideas flowing.
Pitch competition to highlight innovations
On Sunday social innovators will showcase their work during a pitch competition. Prizes include:
- • A free one term stay for two students at St. Paul’s GreenHouse, the first and only live-in campus-linked accelerator in Canada focused on social innovation and entrepreneurship;
- • Up to $15,000 in research grant funding for students from the MS Society of Canada and the opportunity to work under the mentorship of a Waterloo faculty member;
- • Up to four scholarships worth $5,000 for the Masters of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Program at the Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Centre;
- • A subscription to an online market validation tool donated by the Accelerator Centre.
Registration is still open. No previous knowledge of Alzheimer’s or MS is required to participate in the hack. Members of the public are invited to attend the pitch competition on Sunday starting at 3:45 p.m.