Benjamin Logan Ward, of Fairfax, Va., and a member of the Class of 2021 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), has won the Grand Prize in Yale University’s YHack annual hackathon. Ward and teammate Solomon Greenberg, of Olin College, will share the $1,000 prize; the pair also won the Code4Good Civic Track Original Project award and the Best IoT Hack Using a Qualcomm Device award at the competition.
During the 2-day hackathon, Ward and Greenberg designed KeepAlive, an artificial pancreas system for patients with type 1 diabetes. The device will help alleviate the burden of glucose self-management and reduce long- and short-term disease complications, Ward said. The device can regulate blood glucose by modulating the background insulin rate to compensate for carbohydrate intake and the natural glycogen release cycle of the liver.
“The ‘holy grail’ in diabetes care is automating the process of managing blood glucose,” says Ward. “We’ve created a device that completely removes the need for manual human intervention.” The project, which featured machine learning, utilized a complex endocrine simulation matched to Greenberg’s insulin and carbohydrate responses. “Our system is completely customized for the user, which allows us a lot of flexibility to achieve user-centric results that adjust to their specific body chemistry and eating habits.”
Ward and Greenberg plan to continue working on their invention. “This project was incredible to work on, especially since this was my first hackathon. There’s nothing like it,” says Ward. “We have some future developments in the works to turn KeepAlive into a form that can be used on a daily basis, and we hope to continue hacking on it at future events.”
“What I love about awards and accolades like this is that they celebrate not just a specific event or competition but everything that came before it,” said Donna Levin, Executive Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, who oversees WPI’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. “Our students are on the national stage because the university’s intense, hands-on curriculum teaches them to be nimble in addressing problems and to innovate around challenges as they develop solutions and reach their goals.”
The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, the hub of WPI’s entrepreneurial efforts both internally and externally, connects WPI innovators to commercial and venture capital opportunities, and identifies partners seeking specific expertise to inform their own product development. WPI has been expanding its focus on innovation and entrepreneurship education for several years, further integrating entrepreneurial thinking into its distinctive project-based curriculum that is centered on applying knowledge learned in the classroom to solve real-world problems in the field. The entrepreneurial mindset allows students to recognize opportunities and respond creatively with a focus on making an impact and creating value.