Engineering Accessibility

Software engineering students developed technological solutions for persons with special needs

About 100 engineering students took part in the hackathon conducted this week at the SCE Sami Shamoon College of Engineering Be’er Sheva campus, in the aim of finding technological solutions for persons with special needs.

Dr. Hadas Chassidim, who initiated and organized the conference and the hackathon, said that: “The hackathon on the topic of special needs was conducted at the College as part of the Academia Industry Software Quality & Testing (AISTQ) Conference – which promotes relationships between academia and industry. The conference this year, in collaboration with the Be’er Sheva municipality and CDI Negev (Center for Digital Innovation), was dedicated to special needs. To enhance the event additional partners joined in the undertaking – Tech7, the Center for Law and Science, Amram Institute and AlterNet. In addition to the technological challenge that accompanies software hackathons, this year was unique in the need to close professional gaps in the special needs area among engineering students, so that they could define significant problems and develop appropriate solutions. We were glad to find many experts in the treatment, diagnosis, education and legal fields who mobilized to share their extensive knowledge and experience with the participants in their lectures, and many advisors who joined in the course of hackathon to accompany development and improve the process. The hackathon served as an unusual opportunity to expose each and every participant to a complex and challenging world that is an integral part of society, to open their hearts and minds in order to find creative solutions to create a better world that will foster equality, sensitivity to the other and a connection between population groups.”

After 24 consecutive hours of work the products were already presented to the judging committee that was comprised of representatives of companies and organizations from industry and academia, and was the entity that announced the winning teams. Committee members included Prof. Gal Meiri from the Soroka Medical Center, Yehuda Marciano - Head of the Be'er-Sheva Municipality's Innovation and Information Systems Department, and Yuval Zana, Senior Director for Technologies and Smart Cities at Digital Israel Headquarters. The students were accompanied by experts from treatment and technological fields, as well as by legal experts on accessibility issues.

First place and a monetary prize of NIS 8,000 were awarded to the Enabled team that was comprised of four 4th year software engineering students from the SCE Ashdod campus: Reuven Bentulila, Benjamin Talpa, Shani Levi and Shiraz Bar. This winning team developed a system that provides information about accessible stores for persons with a disability. The Android application they developed targets accessible stores that can register to the application only after signing an accessibility covenant which verifies that they meet the criteria for an accessible store, and serves the population of persons with a disability and the general public that can use the application to decide whether to visit an accessible store and even to rank a store’s accessibility level.

In second place and with a monetary prize of NIS 4,000 was the Planbuddy team that was comprised of software engineering students from the SCE Ashdod campus: Dor Lugasi Gal, Maor Israel, Nadav Avisar, Daniel Morad Saka and Haim Leshem. The students developed an application for managing the daily routine of children on the autistic spectrum. The application is based on the understanding that maintaining a fixed routine that is known in advance is highly important for children with autism.

Prof. Jehuda Haddad, President of SCE: “It is known that engineers should be a significant part of solutions design to meet the needs of the economy and society, needs that change over time. What the students, the future engineers, achieved at the hackathon reflects the change that we see in recent years in the market – engineering for a better world. Hackathons are a learning method through which our students gain experience that prepares them to contend with endless challenges and for the future employment market. The issue of accessibility is also part of the real world that the students will encounter in the future”.

The Mayor of Be’er Sheva, Rubik Danilovich, spoke about the importance of the engineering field to special needs, noting that: “The world presents us with many challenges and to be able to contend with them we are all needed – professionals, software and computer people, highly creative people and more. This hackathon is a wonderful example of collaboration. I thank the College that once again demonstrated that it is an integral part of the community and the city.”