Female researcher with supervisor


To innovate solutions for medicine

April 6-7th, 2021: Free Virtual Biotechnology Hackathon


The Med-O-Vate Hackathon was a free, virtual, biotechnology hackathon hosted by a group of high school students from the Lake Washington School District (Ria Mohan, Piya Modalavalasa & Monisha Krothapalli) on April 6-7th. A common issue amid the ongoing pandemic is battling a dwindling sense of motivation after spending most of the school year from home. Having experienced this struggle first-hand, the organizers of Med-O-Vate hoped to provide an engaging outlet for bright minds!

This event was open to middle and high school students from all around the world, who were able to form teams and compete for a variety of prizes in a healthcare-related challenge. Over 120 students registered for this hackathon from across the world, including Kenya, India, Canada, and Oman, and over 20 exceptional projects were submitted for expert judges to provide feedback on. All the students who attended had the opportunity to interact with STEM professionals from a variety of fields. The Med-O-Vate organizers were honored to have guest speakers and workshop leaders from several organizations including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, C2 Education, Sams Labs, Labster, CloudPlex, and more!

Throughout the course of these two days, students also formed teams to research, collaborate, brainstorm, and present a solution to a problem that they identified in our healthcare industry. Each and every project submitted was beyond phenomenal, and it’s clear that each attendee worked extremely hard on their projects and produced incredible work! The judges provided their expert feedback on these amazing projects to decide on the 1st-3rd place winners for the two main categories of the hackathon: physical and mental illnesses. $250, $150, and $100 were awarded to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners respectively for each category.

Mental Illnesses

Physical Illnesses

An additional award, consisting of CircuitScribe drones from Electroninks, was gifted to the “Most Creative” project. The winner of this award, Riya Yarlagadda, stated: “Something I would like to share is that this was my first competition, and I’m really glad that Med-O-Vate gave me this opportunity. It took me a while to think of something to solve and I was really worried that my project would be terrible, but I just faced my fears, and I am glad that I was a part of this competition!”

The organizers of Med-O-Vate received similar statements to Riya’s and were overjoyed with this overwhelming support from not only attending students but workshop leaders and judges alike! Participating students left encouraged, motivated, and inspired to continue their projects and research well after the hackathon ended. A quote from the 1st place winner, Jaden Bhimani, of the Mental Illnesses category demonstrates this common sentiment: “Med-O-Vate was really a time that allowed me to test my limits. It forced me to explore a field I had interest in but never ventured into, and that extra push is going to really help me in my next projects to come. Over the years, millions of people have suffered from motor neuron disease and that’s caused so much human potential to be lost. While it may be small at the moment, it was encouraging to be able to try and make somewhat of a difference through technology. Solving the world’s biggest problems and helping people are what the tech industry was made for, and I think far too often that’s forgotten.”

Finally, Sagunya Malhotra, a very avid and eager attendee of Med-O-Vate has left us with this touching statement: “I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate in the Med-O-Vate hackathon! It was an amazing experience to be able to connect with my peers on a deeper educational level regarding diseases. This event really pushed me to dive into various statistics and create awareness regarding the Alzheimer’s disease we researched. I didn’t know how detrimental this specific disease is to the human population and how it is continuously affecting adults every single day up until they forget who their loved ones are. It is truly heartbreaking to witness this transition as the brain progressively becomes weaker and weaker. I’m so thankful we got to research this topic and find out about what exactly this disease is so we can spread awareness in our community!”

Overall, this hackathon was a great learning experience for not only attending participants but for the student organizing team as well!


CHALLENGE: Diagnosis, treatment, and recovery of a chosen mental or physical illness. Choose a specific stage of the healthcare process (diagnosis, treatment, or recovery) and apply biotechnology to a specific physical illness (ex. Covid-19, cancer, tuberculosis) or mental disorder (ex. depression, anxiety, PTSD) to develop an idea that will help the general public, assist healthcare workers, or ease patients.

PROBLEM STATEMENT: This ongoing pandemic has caused doctors and health care professionals around the world to be overworked and understaffed. The lack of in-person interactions abruptly forced our society to shift to a digital means of communication, making the provision of healthcare very difficult. Technology is an evolving, vital asset that can be used to solve a wide range of medical problems through unique solutions that anyone, including you, can develop.

TARGET AUDIENCE: This hackathon is targeted towards middle and high schoolers, to assist aspiring young adults in leaving a positive impact on their communities. This hackathon will motivate bright minds, regardless of background, to innovate and implement much needed change in our world.


  • Competitors can compete as individuals or form teams of 2-5 students in grades 8-12
  • Students from any region or school district are eligible to compete
  • This hackathon is open to students from all countries! While international participants (outside of the U.S.) will not be able to receive physical prizes due to shipping restrictions, they can still win monetary prizes.

Code of Conduct:

  • Winner selection by the committee is final
  • Plagiarism is not acceptable and participants who are found to have plagiarized will be disqualified
  • All research must be properly cited (APA Format)
  • Participants are expected to behave in a civil manner and keep language appropriate for a work environment
  • All work has to be original and be conducted with no outside help
  • Participants must maintain an inclusive and respectful environment for all students


  • Mental illness category:
    • 1st place – $250
    • 2nd place – $150
    • 3rd place – $100
  • Physical illness category:
    • 1st place – $250
    • 2nd place – $150
    • 3rd place – $100
  • Most creative project:
    • CircuitScribe Drones
  • Raffle prizes: PocketLab Voyager & PocketLab Air

If teams are within the top three places, monetary amounts will be given to teams, as a whole, not to individual members. In the case of the most creative project, each member will receive a drone. Finally, we will be holding a raffle to win sensors from PocketLab. Each workshop/keynote speaker session you participate in, counts as an additional entry for this raffle!


Participants are expected to agree to and follow the code of conduct, liability and protection, and parental consent form upon registration.

Participants are NOT required to do any preliminary work before the hackathon, however we strongly recommend that competitors formulate an idea about their proposed solution. The main incentive behind releasing the challenge now is for competitors to have ample time to identify a problem in the healthcare industry and start thinking of solutions to pitch to judges. It’s up to participants to decide on when to get started on their presentations and prototype.

Required Deliverables for Project Eligibility:

Video showing the presentation and prototype: Competitors must submit a video to verbally explain the proposed solution and show off the prototype.

Maximum time limit for each video: 8 mins

  1. Presentation: The presentation should explain the targeted problem and proposed solution. Competitors must describe how their solution works, how it’s better than current solutions tackling this problem, and any other related information (how much would it cost, does it require specialized equipment or training to handle, etc). The presentation should market the proposed solution and entice the judges.
    1. Any platform for this presentation can be used: PowerPoint, Prezi, Google Slides, Sway, etc. Click here for a sample presentation template Software programs can be coded in any language
  1. Prototype: The prototype is meant to serve as a preview to demonstrate what the proposed solution would become if it were to be fully rendered out. The prototype format is up to competitors (can be a physical or digital model/software programs). Examples of prototypes include websites, apps, running programs, etc.
    1. Software programs can be coded in any language


Keynote Speakers:

  • Dr. Thomas J. Lynch Jr. is a world-renowned scientist, highly respected oncologist and the president and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
  • Representatives from C2 Education, an organization that provides academic support to aspiring students
  • Zac Dell’Acqua, a representative from Labster, an educational technology company that creates virtual science labs for high school and college students. You’ll leave inspired and possibly able to see your own future in the life-changing fields of STEM!
  • Adnan Siddiquie and Elyasse El Yacoubi both work with start-ups and encourage youth in running their own businesses

Workshop Leaders:

  • Engineering panel from Estes Rockets, an aerospace engineering company centered on innovation and creativity
  • Gene-editing Q&A workshop from Karina Barbosa, a graduate of Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Institution
  • Asad Faizi, founder and CEO of the Seattle tech start-up CloudPlex
  • Dr. Ee Phie Tan, postdoctoral fellow in the Hansen Lab at Sanford Burnham and Stephen Sakuma, a graduate at Sanford Burnham, will lead a workshop on career trajectories
  • Emily Deffenbaugh from Sam Labs will be running an interactive workshop where hackers can learn to build using virtual tools
  • Emily Knoppert, an educator and writer, will host a workshop on writing winning college essays! Attend to better understand the college application process from an experienced college counselor


  • Dr. Hilton Kaplan, a distinguished reconstructive surgeon, remarkable biomedical engineer, and research scientist
  • Lena-Phuong Tran, the program associate of Stem Paths Innovation Network, which helps students pursue opportunities in the STEM fields
  • Dr. Purnima Patel, an internal medicine doctor at Providence Medical Group