Interdisciplinary Student Teams Tackle Pediatric Challenges in Healthcare Hackathon

Interdisciplinary Student Teams Tackle Pediatric Challenges in Healthcare Hackathon
Brandon Howard

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Tasked with real-world problems from pediatric doctors, a student team's proposal to improve a harness for infants born with a hip abnormality earned $1,000 in a healthcare hackathon organized by the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation as part of its Northwest Arkansas Biodesign Sprints program.

"Over the weekend I was able to have fun, gain hands-on experience solving problems in healthcare and network with amazing people," said Jenna Kempkes, a junior in the Honors College of Engineering.

"But the best part is knowing that the work we did could have real impacts on the lives of children and their parents."

Focused on brainstorming and designing medical devices, the hackathon followed "Challenge Sprints" led by OEI, the College of Engineering and HealthTech Arkansas to identify as many problems and challenges as possible in the healthcare field.

Those challenges were reviewed and curated for teams to problem-solve at the hackathon, which paired interdisciplinary student teams with clinicians from Arkansas Children's Hospitals. The hackathon was held over a 48-hour period from Nov. 11-13 at the U of A Collaborative in Bentonville. The winning teams received between $250-$1,000 and were judged by a panel of medical doctors and innovators in the healthcare industry.

Kempkes said the interdisciplinary focus of the hackathon was crucial to her team's innovations.

"I don't think we would have been able to fully comprehend the problem without the unique backgrounds of each member group," she said.

The students' ingenuity, produced on a tight deadline, impressed Dr. Abdallah R. Dalabih, a pediatric critical care medicine physician at Arkansas Children's.

"This is my first time coming here, and it's absolutely amazing," Dalabih said. "In two days you solved problems that literally have been here for decades … you contributed immensely to this field, and I would love it if you continue doing what you're doing and keep thinking forward."

Launched in March 2022, Northwest Arkansas Biodesign Sprints is a program within the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation that emerged from a partnership between the university's Department of Biomedical Engineering, HealthTech Arkansas and four major regional healthcare systems.

Funded by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, NWA Biodesign Sprints is the second of three verticals (the first being outdoor recreation and the third being digital products) planned for the Greenhouse, the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation's product and business incubator located at the Collaborative.

The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and its partners are planning to hold similar hackathons in the spring semester, although no dates have been set. Students who want to get involved should email for more information.


  • $1,000 — Emma Herman, sophomore, data science; Jenna Kempkes, junior, Honors College of Engineering; Danny Santillan, junior, College of Engineering
    • Infants born with hip dysplasia often wear a corrective harness to aid normal development. The team redesigned a corrective harness that’s easier to use for parents and gentler on the infant's skin. 
  • $500 — Fan Bu, doctorate, College of Engineering; Ngoc Childress, senior, Fulbright College; Clair Dildy, senior, College of Engineering; John Steward, junior, Honors College of Engineering
    • Central Venous Catheter (CVC) placement confirmation is a challenge faced by emergency personnel in hospitals, with misplacement potentially causing severe injury or death. V-Ready proposed an innovative method that allows a physician to more easily read the results, thus improving the accuracy, rapidity and cost of CVC placement in emergency settings.
  • $250 — Nathaniel Liu, sophomore, Honors College of Engineering; Emilio Murillo, sophomore, Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences; Kya Novack-Williams, freshman, College of Engineering; Kenyo Ong, freshman, Fulbright College; Julliana Renales, senior, Honors College of Engineering
    • Urodynamic tests are time-consuming, costly, measure limited data, and must be done in a clinical setting. The team proposed the idea of mobilizing the technology, allowing the wearer to resume normal activity during testing periods and to gather more dynamic data.


About the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation: The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation creates and curates innovation and entrepreneurship experiences for students across all disciplines. Through the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, McMillon Innovation Studio, Startup Village, and Greenhouse at the Bentonville Collaborative, OEI provides free workshops and programs — including social and corporate innovation design teams, venture internships, competitions and startup coaching. A unit of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and Division of Economic Development, OEI also offers on-demand support for students who will be innovators within existing organizations and entrepreneurs who start something new. 


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