Many of our active and alumni Brothers are talented and brilliant minded. With Epsilon-Eta average GPA for the Fall 2013 semester at a 3.34, second of all fraternal organizations on campus, our Brothers continue to strive for excellence in their academics and to showcase their talents on campus and in the community.
Photo courtesy of Albany Times Union
Photo of winning team Vera – Center is Raymond Jacobson, EH 1298
At the end of the fall 2013 semester and right before the winter break from school, Brother Raymond Jacobson, EH 1298 (Ray), a sophomore computer and systems engineering and computer science dual major, participated in what New York State has claimed a first of its kind Codeathon (branded Code@thon). Hosted in EMPAC on the Rensselaer campus, the Codeathon is a strong initiative lead by the state with aims to be transformative in areas of healthcare and technology, particularly at their intersection. As Ray describes it, “the CTO of New York State is making a great effort to do something amazing in this area and boost the tech sector of upstate NY by creating unique competitions that bring forward great ideas in the areas of healthcare, in conjunction with the Health 2.0 initiative.
Together with friend and classmate (Ethan Bond ’16 – SAE Brother) they set out at the recent Codathon competition with a completely new idea to help in the area of identifying and promoting good health, especially with those that struggle with obesity or have been diagnosed with diabetes. Using datasets given to participants, the goal was to code an application that helped to identify and improve personal health risks. Ray and Ethan quickly knew what they wanted to do; little did they know how impressive their program would be. Having some experience and participating in similar competitions in the past, such as Hack Upstate, HackMIT, and AngelHack, they had quickly developed an idea that would be unique and different than the other groups participating. “In a competition like this, a lot of developers will look to create systems to take measurements and provide feedback and dieting suggestions. We wanted our idea to be different because we know that not everyone has regular access to a computer or the internet, especially those with more modest incomes that tend to be more at risk for diabetes and obesity. Many people, however, are able to utilize even the simplest phone to text. Texting technology is more accessible to lower income, non-tech savvy people” says Ray. So that is what they set out to do, develop and build an affordable, simple way for people to find out their health risks and be reminded and given tips of a healthy lifestyle. They named this app “Vera”, with no naming significance other than finding a simple name to make it a product that would be easy to identify, (much like SIRI). Together, they sat in the war room in EMPAC and simply created the winning program that the judges saw as highly functional and incredibly unique.
Vera is very simple; all a person would need to do is text a number and she will send you a friendly message back asking you information to help you succeed in staying healthy. Described by Ray, “Vera was built to be intelligent yet friendly and personable. The program will collect data based off the questions and in the background would be calculating health needs. For example, a question would be ‘how old are you’ and then Vera would have a friendly response, then say, ‘I am going to calculate your BMI and compare you to the norm if you provide me your weight’. Now she can calculate ways for you to be healthy.” Once the program has all the information it needs, it will then follow up with the individual at a later date or at certain times depending on how your honest interactions are. “Basically, based on an algorithm, it will check in on you each week or day, depending on your health risk, and it might give you tips for what to eat, and how to eat healthier. The ultimate goal of Vera, in the end, is to help you make better decision and ping you along the way just to check in, and with healthy or unhealthy habits, it will get you or keep you on track.”
One might wonder how an individual took interested in getting involved and being a part of this event, even after a long semester of classes. Ray got his start working on his passion and talent of coding by being inspired by his computer science teacher in high school. He developed the talent of coding over time and came to realize that healthcare and technology is an area has a chance to truly make lives better and be a significant factor is quality of life. Visiting his professor in his office, he noticed the poster for Code@thon, considered the idea, saw that Ethan was also interested in participating, and registered for the event. “This event spoke out to me, enough to stay on campus even after the semester, because of my involvement with past Hackathons, and because of the Health 2.0 initiative behind it. It is also a chance to use my skills as a programmer to create a technological program that could truly change the world and a person’s life.” Ray and Ethan met their freshman year in Cary Hall and have worked together on these types of projects several times.
The Codeathon was very real, as a demo version was created. The team of Ray and Ethan were given just 5 minutes to present their creation after only 24 hours of preparation and development. The 8 judges announced the result of the 6 teams that presented at the end, made up of 4-5 people from RPI students, to students at other upstate colleges and universities, to other New York region developers (some commuted from the city). The winner of the Code@thon, team Vera, received a $6,000 prize per team and 2 tickets to HxRefactored 2014 conference.
In addition to Ray’s interest in programming and coding, he is a very active member in the Chapter and on campus. Currently the High Theta, responsible for external relations, Ray is currently developing a program called TALKS, a new initiative on campus that brings campus talent to a TedX style speaker series, using our own campus talent to speak and present to students. This initiative is in addition to leading the many traditional community service and philanthropy programs on campus and in the community. Ray is currently participating in the Inner Circle Journey and has been a part of the first evolution. On campus, he is a very active member of the GM Week Committee, helping to build an even strong tradition on campus, and research with CATS, CBIS, and RCOS, the Rensselaer open-source development group.
We congratulate Ray on this achievement. You may find out more information about Ray’s winning Codathon program and about Vera by visiting the Health 2.0 website.
Raymond Jacobson, EH 1298 LinkedIn Profile
Raymond Jacobson Website
Albany Times Union Article about Codeathon