Students take first place at Microsoft hackathon with idea for helping dementia patients

Four first-term BCIT Computer Systems Technology (CST) students took first place recently at The Garage at Microsoft Vancouver hackathon. The two-day event was aimed at bringing technology and healthcare together to improve health outcomes for individuals with complex needs.

Making a difference in the lives of people with dementia

The winning team – Michael Disyak, Geoff Robertson, Mikhaela Layon, and Andrei Muresan – built MusiQR, a site that aims to help people create and share music therapy playlists for elderly dementia patients to improve the quality of the in-home care they receive.

Michael explains: “The application walks a person through the steps they should take to determine what music is appropriate for the patient and then instructs them on how to generate a playlist.”

Once the playlist is created, the application converts a link to a QR code that provides quick access to the playlist. Although the project was designed to make a difference in the lives of individuals with dementia, it could be used to help any person who would benefit from music therapy.

The value of participating in hackathons

Although they are only at the beginning of their program, the team participated in the event to gain experience in designing and building a project end-to-end, to meet new people, to learn things they wouldn’t otherwise learn, and to make a difference.

Andrei highly recommends this type of event to other CST students: “It was much less technical than people might imagine. We were far from the most technically-knowledgeable group and we ended up making a working prototype and winning.”

Geoff agrees: “It was a lot of fun. I think we won because we kept our scope small and focused on being able to actually deliver a functioning prototype.”

The team says they want to encourage everyone interested in technology to sign up for hackathons, as it is a great opportunity to build design and planning skills, regardless of coding ability.

Staying focused and delivering results

According to BCIT Computing faculty member Vidhi Shah, it’s the amalgamation of design principles in combination with programming knowledge that makes students well-rounded and impactful developers. Team-member Michael says the biggest contribution that BCIT gave them was an emphasis on staying focused on purpose and results.

“We spent most of our time at the hackathon reducing our idea into something manageable, something highly specialized, and we always kept our intended goal in mind. I think the reason that we beat out the other teams was the very specific focus of our application,” he explained. “We didn’t try to do it all, we tried to do something well.”

As winners, they will have the opportunity to present their solution to a group of healthcare experts and influencers at an upcoming stakeholders’ event.

To learn more about CST, or to attend an information session, please visit the program page.

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