As a freshman in… Social and technical systems (SES) PhD program at MIT Institute for Data, Systems and Society (IDSS), Eric Liu and Ashely Peake have a shared interest in studying problems with housing inequality.

They also share a desire to plunge headfirst into their research.

“In the primary yr of your PhD, you’re taking classes and still need to learn the ropes, but we were very excited to begin research,” says Liu.

Liu, Peake and plenty of others found there the chance to conduct practical research on real-world problems MIT Policy Hackathonan initiative organized by IDSS students, including the Technology and Policy Program (TPP). The weekend-long, interdisciplinary event – ​​now in its sixth yr – continues to bring together tons of of participants from world wide to explore possible solutions to a few of society’s biggest challenges.

This yr’s theme: “Hack-GPT: Generating the politics of tomorrowAccording to Dansil Green, a second-year TPP master’s student and co-chair, the event desired to capitalize on the recognition of generative AI (just like the chatbot ChatGPT) and the best way it’s changing the best way we take into consideration technical and policy-based challenges.

“We encouraged our teams to make use of and cite these tools while enthusiastic about the impact that generative AI tools have on their various challenge categories,” says Green.

After the hybrid event in 2022, organizers returned to an all-virtual approach this yr, allowing them to extend the whole variety of participants and the variety of teams per challenge by 20 percent.

“Virtual means that you can reach more people – we had numerous international participants this yr – and it helps reduce a number of the costs,” says Green. “I feel in the long run we’ll try to modify backwards and forwards between virtual and in-person because they each have different advantages.”

“When the Magic Strikes”

Liu and Peake competed within the “Housing Challenge” category and were in a position to gain research experience of their actual field.

“While I do housing research, I have not necessarily had many opportunities to work with actual housing data,” says Peake, who recently joined the SES doctoral program after completing a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics last yr. “It was a very good experience to tackle an actual data problem, work more closely with Eric, who can be in my lab group, and likewise meet people from MIT and world wide who’re serious about tackling similar questions see how they work.” Think about things in another way.”

Together with Adrian Butterton, a Boston-based paralegal, in addition to Hudson Yuen and Ian Chan, two software engineers from Canada, Liu and Peake, formed the team that will ultimately develop into the winning team of their category: “Team Ctrl+Alt+ Defeat.” They quickly began developing a plan to deal with the eviction crisis within the United States.

“I feel we were form of surprised by the scope of the query,” laughs Peake. “Ultimately, I feel having such a large scope has motivated us to give it some thought more realistically – how could we discover an answer that’s adaptable and subsequently replicable to deal with various kinds of problems?”

As they watched the challenge together on the live stream on campus, Liu said they immediately started working and couldn’t consider how quickly all the pieces got here together.

“In the evening, we received the outline of our challenge, got here to the purple common area within the IDSS constructing, and it literally took us perhaps an hour to work out the whole project from start to complete,” says Liu. “Then our software developer partners created a dashboard at 1 a.m. – I feel just like the hackathon really encourages that basically fast, dynamic workflow.”

“People at all times talk concerning the effort or applying for funding – but when that magic hits, it just reminds you of the a part of research that individuals don’t discuss, and it was a very great experience,” adds Liu.

A brand new perspective

“We have organized hackathons internally inside our company, that are great for encouraging innovation and creativity,” says Letizia Bordoli, senior AI product manager at Veridos, a Germany-based identity solutions company that’s leading this yr’s Data Systems Challenge for Human Rights”. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to attach with talented people and explore latest ideas and solutions that we won’t have considered yet.”

The challenge provided by Veridos focused on finding modern solutions for universal birth registration, which Bordoli said only benefited from the undeniable fact that the hackathon participants got here from all around the world.

“Many had local knowledge and first-hand knowledge of certain realities and challenges (arising from the shortage of birth registration”), says Bordoli. “It brings latest perspectives to existing challenges and has given us the energy to develop modern solutions that we may not have considered before.”

New frontiers

In addition to the housing and data systems human rights challenges, there was a health challenge and the primary opportunity to deal with an aerospace environmental justice challenge.

“Space generally is a very difficult challenge category data-wise because quite a lot of the information is proprietary. “So this has really evolved over the previous couple of months as we have needed to take into consideration how we will do more with open source data,” Green said. “But I’m glad we took the ecological route since it opened up the challenge not just for space enthusiasts, but additionally for environmental and climate experts.”

One of the participants taking over this latest challenge category was Yassine Elhallaoui, a systems test engineer from Norway who makes a speciality of AI solutions and has 16 years of experience working within the oil and gas fields. Elhallaoui was a member of the EcoEquity team that proposed expanding policies to support the usage of satellite data to make sure proper assessment and increase water resilience of vulnerable communities.

“The hackathons I even have participated in up to now have been more technical in nature,” says Elhallaoui. “Starting with (MIT Science and Technology Policy Institute Director Kristen Kulinowski’s) workshop on policy writers and the solutions they developed and the evaluation they’d to do… it really modified my perspective on the chances of a hackathon.”

“A policy hackathon can create real change on the planet,” she adds.

This article was originally published at