Bright ideas for Hopkins: Health hackathon, science camp for city kids, free food fridge, and more

Five Idea Lab proposals from JHU community earn funding in online voting

Five proposals submitted this spring to Johns Hopkins' Idea Lab crowdsourcing website will receive funding by virtue of garnering the most support in online voting.

Funding will be awarded to a health care innovation conference that expands upon the popular MedHacks event, a science-themed summer camp for Baltimore fifth-graders, and a place for students to get free food left over from events, among other creative concepts.

In all, 59 proposals were submitted and more than 4,000 students, faculty, and staff across every school and division cast roughly 8,500 votes to determine the first group of winners.

In its third year, the Idea Lab offered three areas in which ideas were welcome from the Johns Hopkins community: The Ten by Twenty Challenge to support individual excellence, the Diversity Innovation Grants to promote inclusion, and the Hopkins Eco-Smart Acorn Grant to drive sustainability.

In all, 59 proposals were submitted and more than 4,000 students, faculty, and staff across every school and division cast roughly 8,500 votes to determine the first group of winners. Later this month, additional ideas in the Ten by Twenty Challenge and the Diversity Innovation Grants will be selected by committees to receive financial support.

Ten by Twenty Challenge

In each of the Idea Lab cycles, JHU President Ronald J. Daniels has issued a challenge to the community to offer ideas to advance one of the priorities of the university's Ten by Twenty vision. Winners get $20,000 each to bring their ideas to fruition.

This year he focused on the priority of individual excellence, telling the university community in a message that "top talent requires the right conditions to thrive, and so we are seeking ideas that foster individual excellence by helping members of our university community tap into the power of their full potential, here on campus or beyond."

The winner, with 881 votes, is a conference called Harbor Health that combines a design competition for Johns Hopkins engineering students and a medical hackathon. The organizers, who previously developed the MedHacks hackathon, said in their proposal that having part of the conference focus on projects that have been developed over time in addition to an on-the-spot hackathon will give hackers "an unprecedented opportunity to interact with more experienced, technologically capable students who have already taken an idea from drawing board to product." They say this mix will better enable all participants to excel.

In second place, with 784 votes, is a student-run online medical journal called The Hippocrates Med Review. The journal's creators, who launched a website in January, say they hope to provide "a world-class forum that showcases a holistic view of medicine as told by the brightest minds in the medical field."

Diversity Innovation Grants

Presented annually since 2012, the Diversity Leadership Council's grants have supported dozens of programs to promote civility, respect, and inclusion at Johns Hopkins. The diversity innovation grants are open to employees of the health system as well as faculty, staff, and students of the university, and 24 ideas were up for voting this year.

The top number of votes for this challenge—392—went to a project called Fun for Science Summer Day Camp for Inner City Students. The project team plans to build upon a science-focused summer camp for Baltimore City youth that has been offered since 2008 with support from the School of Medicine.

This year the camp will have a redesigned curriculum that will focus on making hypotheses, designing experiments, and analyzing results. The camp will take place for one week at the School of Medicine and include 15 to 20 fifth-graders from the city.

The second-place idea is a series of trainings to "facilitate a safe, diverse, civil, and equity-based learning environment for all students, staff, and faculty" centered at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The program, named Connecting the Dots: Public Health as a Social Justice Practice, will include discussions of anti-oppression frameworks and how they can be applied to public health practice and will encourage critical self-reflection by participants.

Eco-Smart Acorn Grant

Getting free food left over from events into the hands of students is the focus of the Free Food Fridge idea, which surpassed 10 others in the Hopkins Eco-Smart Acorn Grant Challenge.

This is the second year that this grant has been part of the Idea Lab. The Office of Sustainability said it was looking for "unique ideas that when implemented showcase a topic, opportunity, or solution that increases consciousness, and in turn positively impacts our campus and community."

The free food fridge will be a central location with a refrigerator and microwave where event organizers and students can deposit food that would otherwise go to waste. The project team plans to define labeling protocol to track freshness and dietary concerns, and develop marketing and educational materials that increase knowledge on food waste issues and remediation efforts at JHU. A student volunteer would check the refrigerator contents and clean it weekly, and a notification system would work to alert students in real-time of food for the taking.

According to the proposal, "Preliminary results in a survey with 800 student responses show that 78.1 percent of students indicated they would utilize a free food fridge, and the vast majority of students (80.1%) indicated that on average they would use the fridge once a week or more often."

All of the Idea Lab submissions and comments are on the Idea Lab website.