Student innovation shines in sixth annual Animal Health Hackathon

Last weekend, students honed their business acumen for all creatures great and small at the sixth annual Animal Health Hackathon. Co-hosted by the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), the Center for Veterinary Business and Entrepreneurship, and Entrepreneurship at Cornell, this event brought together participants from diverse majors, schools and institutions to address current needs in veterinary healthcare.

This year, 120 students in 24 teams competed virtually for awards in three categories, assisted by 48 mentors from veterinary medicine, research and industry who advised them over the course of the weekend. Students represented disciplines across the Cornell campuses in Ithaca and New York City — the SC Johnson College of Business had the highest representation with 37 students, followed by the College of Engineering with 29 and CVM with 20. Six participants represented other veterinary colleges and universities from across the United States.

Team Seal the Deal's Zoom screen
Team Seal the Deal won the Most Innovative Award.

Each team brainstormed solutions to challenges submitted by event sponsors and partners, ranging in topic from curbing mastitis in dairy cows, improving data security, house training dogs, recruiting staff and dispensing vaccines, among others. Students pitched their ideas to these challenges and formed groups based on interest and discipline. After brainstorming, development and feedback over the next 48 hours, teams then presented their demos to a panel of judges. Participants also had a chance to network and hear from guest speakers, featuring Erin Chu ’10, D.V.M. ’14, Ph.D. ’17, life sciences lead at Amazon Web Services, and Shadi Ireifej, D.V.M. ’06, founder and chief medical officer of VetTriage.

Sunday’s awards ceremony capped off the fast-paced weekend, with $9,000 in prizes divided evenly among the winning teams.

Team Koalified's Zoom screen
Team Koalificated won the Best Vet Health Care Solution Award.

Team Seal the Deal won the Most Innovative Award for “Seal the Deal,” a device that can deliver both antibiotics and teat sealant to dairy cattle without removing the needle in the teat. Team members included: James Duong from the SC Johnson College of Business, Lauren Harper from CVM, Ari Padda from the SC Johnson College of Business and Jonathan Zirkiev from Hunter College.

Team Koalificated won the Best Vet Health Care Solution Award for “AirTech,” their non-invasive alternative to modern artificial insemination using soft robotics. Team members included: Erik Bielski, Daeden Gordon-Somers-Archer, Maya Kulikowski, Harry Samuels and Zachary Suarez, all from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Team Very Good Team won the Most Market Ready Award for “No Scratch Meow,” which monitors and modifies cat scratching behavior. Team members included: Vrijen Attawar from the SC Johnson College of Business, Michael Lin from the SC Johnson College of Business, Kaitlin Murphy from the University of Pennsylvania, Karan Patel from the College of Engineering, Sam Pevsner from the SC Johnson College of Business and Shivnai Tuli from Weill Cornell Medicine.

Very Good Team's Zoom screen
Team Very Good Team won the Most Market Ready Award.

The Animal Health Hackathon is among a range of initiatives spearheaded by the Center for Veterinary Business and Entrepreneurship. The center also launched dedicated coursework for veterinary students interested in building their management and innovation skills, including the “Agile Innovation” course, which requires students to participate in the hackathon. Notably, five students from the course were among the winning teams.

Sponsors for this year’s event included Encore Vet Group, IDEXX, Boehringer Ingelheim, Zoetis, RareBreed Veterinary Partners, Elanco, VetTriage, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets, IBM, Veterinary Emergency Group and the Veterinary Angel Network.

Written by Melanie Greaver Cordova