NYU Abu Dhabi’s Hackathon for Social Good sparks innovative solutions

NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), in partnership with Tamkeen, has concluded the 11th edition of the NYUAD Hackathon for Social Good in the Arab World, which used quantum computing to find innovative solutions to challenges related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The last day of the three-day programming marathon was marked by the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NYUAD and the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator Foundation (GESDA). In the presence of Ms. Caroline Trautweiler, Deputy Ambassador of Switzerland to the UAE and Bahrain, the two entities agreed to collaborate towards advancing the role that quantum computing can play in solving the world’s most pressing issues and sustainability challenges, and the importance of quantum computing education for all.

As part of its long-term strategic partnership with NYUAD, GESDA will grant an Open Quantum Institute prize to the top winners, which offers access to mentorship, industry networking opportunities, academic research, and an open invitation to attend the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipation Summit on October 11-13, 2023. Additionally, GESDA announced they will invite the first-place winners to present their project at the GESDA Summit in October in Geneva to diplomats, UN leaders, scientists, and more. Furthermore, they will be connected with quantum investors, business leaders, and scientists who will help further mature their idea and accelerate its real-world implementation..

Smart Current, QatraH, and  feeQra were the top three winners of this year’s Hackathon, respectively. They were among the more than 200 elite students from 24 countries who gathered to develop quantum computing-based applications that further the objectives of the UN SDGs.

NYUAD Affiliated Faculty and Clinical Professor of Computer Science Sana Odeh, who organized the event, commented: “We founded the NYUAD International Hackathon for Social Good 11 years ago on our firm belief that technology can aid society. Quantum computing has the potential to transform many fields, but the biggest area where it could help is in solving our greatest challenge: climate change and the need for a more sustainable future. The aim of the hackathon was to direct this powerful technology specifically toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This gave our participating students, who came from all around the world, a real focus for their talents and energy, and I am once again humbled by the results.

This new generation of global talent has used the Hackathon platform to give birth to ideas that can truly have a transformative impact on the future of our society. I thank everyone who participated, along with the mentors and judges who provided valuable counsel, and our partners and sponsors who have all helped make this event a great success.”

In first place, team Smart Current used quantum computing to manage energy grids by providing automated real-time powerflow corrections. The winning project focused on utilizing affordable and clean energy to avoid and mitigate blackouts in power grids.

In second place, team QatraH focused on clean water, sanitation, industry innovation, and infrastructure. Team QatraH used quantum computing to design a more precise, environmentally friendly, and robust water distribution network.

In third place, team feeQra, with their project Qure, designed a solution that assists medical professionals detect early signs of malignant tumors in patients using quantum machine learning.

Participants explored quantum computing solutions to a wide range of challenging projects from machine learning and AI to physics (complex simulation problems), chemistry, computer science, healthcare, maths, to online gaming, security, social sciences, and the arts (quantum-generated artwork).

Experts from world-leading institutions, including ETH, MIT, and Stanford, acted as a source of sponsorship and mentorship to the students, sharing their experiences and insights into the world of tech startups and academic research.

Leaders in the quantum computing and SDG fields delivered keynote speeches. Among them were Palestinian-American electrical engineer Loay Elbasyouni, NASA team member and lead engineer for the innovative robotic helicopter (Ingenuity) that landed on Mars in 2021; Özge Aydoğan, Head UN SDG Lab, Switzerland; Heike Riel, Head of Science & Technology and Lead of IBM Research Quantum Europe; Massamba Thioye, Head of the Global Innovation Hub of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; Marieke Hood, Executive Director, Impact Translator, GESDA; and Davide Venturelli,  Associate Director, Quantum Computing, NASA Ames Research Center – Quantum AI Laboratory, NASA/USAR.

Acclaimed composer, multimedia artist, and writer Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky, kicked off  the three-day Hackathon with a public performance of NY-based electronic music and hip-hop.

The NYUAD Hackathon for Social Good was supported by top global Quantum Computing experts from both industry and academia, such as The NYUAD Center for Quantum and Topological Systems; Technology Innovation Institute (TII), Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA), ETH Zurich, EPFL, University of Calgary’s Institute for Quantum Science and Technology (IQST), the MIT’s iQuHACK, QWorld, as well as experts from world-class businesses including IBM, qBraid, and NIEW.