Campus and Community

Técnico students win Gulbenkian online hackathon

The team was one of the winners of the Gulbenkian Hack For Good @ Home competition and stood out for their creative idea: a smart pill dispenser.

The team composed of Técnico students Beatriz Lourenço, Bernardo Carvalho, Gonçalo Rebelo (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Gonçalo Biltes, (Aerospace Engineering); and also by Catarina Costa, recently graduated in Design from IADE, won the Hack For Good @ Home competition, the technology development marathon (hackathon) organised by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The project developed by the team – an easy-to-use smart pill dispenser – stood out from the rest for its creativity.

Gonçalo Rebelo has been working on this pill dispenser, now called Electronic Geriatric Aid (EGA), for some time: “the idea was born when I was in high school and it helped my grandmother to manage her medication”, hhe recalls. “Most elderly people use the well-known pill boxes. However, I quickly noticed that this process was laborious and often confusing”, shares the student.

He decided to challenge some colleagues and friends to help him solving this problem and to compete in Hack For Good @ Home, which according to Gonçalo Rebelo “was a unique opportunity to turn my idea into reality”. “This team was formed for one single purpose: to provide autonomy and quality of life for eldery people through a smart pill dispenser that helps elder people to manage their medication” says the Técnico student.

EGA was one of the 16 ideas developed during the marathon, among 200 ideas that competed in the initial phase. During the marathon, the ideas presented were developed, improved and transformed into projects, with the support of more than 20 mentors with expertise in population aging issues. At the end, eight teams were invited to present their prototype to the jury. Two projects – EGA and Re.Habilita – were awarded a monetary prize (€2000).

“This work involved a lot of effort. It was the first time we have participated in a competition like this one. I think I can speak for everyone when I say we are very proud of our work”, says Gonçalo Rebelo.

“Knowing that the digital literacy of seniors in Portugal is quite low, we have implemented a system where the step of loading the medication in the device and the initial configuration can be done by a caregiver through our application”, stresses Gonçalo Rebelo.

“We decided to implement a system to reduce human error as much as possible, since taking the wrong medication, or taking the medication at the wrong time, can have serious consequences. To this end, we have developed a system for reloading, where the user needs to scan the pill box in order to confirm the medication”, adds the Técnico student. For safety reasons, when the medication is not withdrawn, the device alerts the nearest family member or caregiver. “The dispenser includes an artificial intelligence system that recognizes patterns of medication intake, identifying whether they are suitable for the user’s clinical condition”, stresses Gonçalo Rebelo.

The group of young entrepreneurs intends to continue investing and improving the project. “We believe it is something that will make a difference and we want to contribute to a better quality of life of eldery people”, says Gonçalo Rebelo.