NYU Students Join Global Competition to Develop Solutions for Public Health Problems

Screenshot from the Open Seventeen demo day

Screenshot from the Open Seventeen demo day, held virtually on Thursday, April 26, 2018.

The United Nations has set forth a list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and among them is ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all people, of all ages. A multidisciplinary student team from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and the Rory Meyers College of Nursing recently tackled that issue as part of the Open Seventeen challenge, an annual event co-organized by Citizen Cyberlab at the University of Geneva, the Citizen Science Centre Zurich (University of Zurich and ETH Zurich), and NYU’s own Governance Lab (The GovLab). The challenge aims to encourage bachelor’s and master’s students to develop innovative and implementable projects that leverage open data and crowdsourcing to tackle one of the SDGs, and this year’s health-focused edition was coordinated in collaboration with  Be He@lthy, Be Mobile, a joint program of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Participating teams worked on core topics that included monitoring and encouraging the use of road helmets, finding new ways to support those with hypertension, and coping with diabetes through behavioral changes. The NYU team took on the issue of low cost early-stage cancer detection and planned to develop a tool that would work in conjunction with a popular app used in India – a project seemingly tailor made for collaboration between aspiring engineers and nurses. “Interdisciplinary thinking is always important,” Tandon team member Francesca Pucciarelli said. “It provides a different perspective because someone always has another way of looking at [the problem].”

It’s clear that at least one member of the team had a way with puns: they called their project “Public Cervix Announcement.” “I think we’re all hoping that conversations start from this – that people talk about women’s health more and de-stigmatize it,” Akiyl El, another NYU Tandon team member, explained.

During the challenge the teams got the benefit of intensive training from The GovLab Academy, an initiative developed by The GovLab that offers coaching programs, workshops, courses, and clinics designed to help take public interest projects from idea to implementation. Among The GovLab coaches were Victòria Alsina (Senior Fellow), Anirudh Dinesh (Associate Fellow and Tandon MS ’15), and Dinorah Cantú-Pedraza (Coordinator of The GovLab Academy and Wagner ‘14). GovLab members have instructed multidisciplinary teams from around the world and expressed excitement about working on the Open Seventeen challenge with this cohort of 24 young, passionate problem-solvers from New York City and far beyond.

At the completion of the challenge, six winning teams were selected to attend either an 8-week SDG Summer School in Switzerland and China to further develop their projects, or to take part in the UNLEASH 2018 ideation and collaboration week in Singapore. “Public Cervix Announcement” will be among them, developing their app and sparking conversation.