Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon 2018 Addresses Innovation in Tech, Policy and Culture

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In late April, technologists, designers, policymakers, and companies will gather to "make the breast pump not suck" as part of a joint project between the Emerson College Engagement Lab and the MIT Media Lab. The Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon will take place on April 27-29 at MIT to improve breast pump technology and address inequities in family leave policy.

In late April, technologists, designers, policymakers, and companies will gather to "make the breast pump not suck" as part of a joint project between the Emerson College Engagement Lab and the MIT Media Lab. The Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon will take place on April 27-29 at MIT to improve breast pump technology and address inequities in family leave policy. The first hackathon took place in 2014 and led to the development of smart pumps, new apps and better services for breastfeeding moms.

“After the first event in 2014, we learned from over 1,000 women’s and parents’ stories that breast pumps are not the only problem for postpartum women. Women also said that they lack paid family leave, lactation support and quality postpartum care,” said Catherine D’Ignazio, assistant professor at Emerson College and Director of the project. "These gaps represent tremendous opportunities for innovation in technology, products and services."

The 2018 hackathon is expected to draw hundreds of engineers, parents, designers, doctors and doulas as well as and 30 companies from around the world to improve breastfeeding technologies.

The event kicks off on April 27 from 6-9 pm at the MIT Media Lab, in Cambridge, MA with a keynote by Kimberly Seals Allers, award-winning journalist, author and a nationally recognized media commentator and advocate for breastfeeding and infant health. The hackathon continues with two full days of events and activities on April 28 and 29.

At the hackathon, teams will create new, smart breast pumps with built-in milk tracking. They will develop telehealth services for nursing moms to get just-in-time advice, apps to connect with other parents on social media, and one team is even working on voice interfaces so a mom can ask a smart device, “How long can I store my breastmilk in the fridge?" With the breast pump market expected to double by 2025, these inventions stand to meet both market demands and fill in systemic gaps in lactation support in the United States.

This year, organizers also want to make sure that any new innovations address equity and affordability, so they are challenging participants to make their designs affordable, and are featuring a policy track at the hackathon. The policy track is called "The Make Family Leave Not Suck Policy Summit" and is centered on catalyzing action on paid family leave policy.

"We need to innovate for everybody," says Binta Beard, who is leading the policy track. "Many women don't even get the choice to breastfeed because they have no paid time off. We are convening thought leaders to change that."

Check out the website here: http://www.makethebreastpumpnotsuck.com

About the Engagement Lab at Emerson College
The Engagement Lab at Emerson College is an applied research and design lab that investigates and creates media and technology to reduce disparities in civic participation. The lab works with partners to co-design solutions to the most pressing problems in democracy and governance, including participation gaps, gender or racial discrimination, lack of basic media literacy, youth exclusion and gaps in public health practices. From playing games, to making media, to running campaigns, the lab creates opportunities for people to creatively participate in civic life. Whether they are used in classrooms or town squares, the tools and processes we develop make civic engagement meaningful for citizens and communities. For more information about the Engagement Lab visit: elab.emerson.edu.

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Michelle Gaseau
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