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On a bright sunny Sunday in Manhattan, five Bruriah students clinched the title win in the prestigious annual Hackathon Women’s Coding Competition.

The contest, hosted by Touro College, was sponsored by Google Ignite CS, Lander College for Women, Israel Tech Challenge, Trello, Pluralsight and Bloomberg, and drew scores of female programmers from across the region.

Teams were given twelve hours to work on their projects and Bruriah’s winning entry was “The Back Stabilitator,” an automated rod that grows as a spine does, preventing the need for painful, bi-annual surgeries in children suffering from scoliosis.

Teams were challenged to come up with a project that demonstrates inspiration and social impact and then outline how it would be applied practically. They were critiqued on their level of adaptability and ingenuity and also their ability to recover from challenges in creating a viable solution to an existing problem or deficit.

The Bruriah team was comprised of Shana and Talya Erblich, of Elizabeth; Tova Braun of Long Branch, New Jersey; Brocha Silverman of Monsey, New York, and Neshama Fournier, of West Orange, and was accompanied by Bruriah Science Chair Dr. Bracha Erblich.

Incredibly, the team used joints from a Lego set to create a spine. “Flex sensors embedded along the spine detect the growth of the bone, sending the information to the stepper, which grows the rod at specific increments accordingly,” explained Shana. “A complex circuit regulates the entire system and interfaces the sensor with the motor. If the flex sensor senses the bone reaching maximum growth capacity, the stepper stops and the spine is considered mature.”

The team’s effort was not without challenges, from a soldering iron that failed to reach an adequately hot temperature to wiring and insulation issues, and figuring out the best way to create extendibility of the spine, but they are proud of their work as a team, which they say was critical to their ultimate success. They relied on everyday products for reverse-engineering to learn. “We learned that anything can be used for creative functions,” Shana explained. “We took apart a disk drive to analyze its retractable area and to extract a step motor. We also used a glue stick’s extendibility to attempt a growing rod.”

Shana already has big plans for their invention. “In the future the system would be scaled down into a wireless chip using nano-technology,” she explained. “The extendable rod and shaft system would be metal rather than lego, and this procedure would become the prevalent form of scoliosis surgery for kids with EOS. It would be marketed at a significantly cheaper price than the original technology, and improve people’s lives worldwide, one back at a time.”

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