HIT Motto


World Renowned Universities Descend On HIT For Inaugural Lab Hackathon

World renowned Oxford University, in partnership with the NEPAD Southern Africa Network for Biosciences, (SANBio), National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe (NBA) and the Harare Institute of Technology collaborated in the hosting of the first ever Zimbabwe Laboratory Equipment Hackathon to design low cost laboratory equipment.

The aim of the event was to give students a platform to design, develop and exhibit lab equipment using affordable local materials, and was held from 10-12 June, 2018, at the Harare Institute of Technology.

Over 100 students, comprising 12 teams, - local and international delegates participated in the Hackathon. The participants were drawn from undergraduate students from Zimbabwean universities and colleges. Students were challenged to form a team comprised of scientists, engineers, computer scientists, economists, social scientists and to design low cost laboratory equipment using Arduino starter kits and hardware.

All LabHackZim teams managed to design and build workable laboratory equipment using simple materials. The student teams’ projects included digital microscopes, centrifuges, Bioreactors, magnetic stirrers and PCRs. The hackathon also included hands on demonstrations and workshops such as how to make a $10 microscope, working with Arduinos sponsored by Netro Electronics, 3D printing and 3D scanning by local companies; 3DGuys and 3D Kings, using Github for projects.

The winning project was a centrifuge by team SMEVFY which was made from discarded desks.  A number of teams from HIT participated and won awards including; Team Bioreactor which won the award for the Most Promising Project, Team EMRECC winning the prize for integrating the most components, and Team BioNova, led by the SANBio Student Ambassador Tendai Gukuta, who won the prize for the Most Frugal Project -a centrifuge made from kitchen equipment.

Engineer Robert Shoniwa, Chairperson and Lecturer in the Information Security and Assurance department who is the Zimbabwe Lab Hackathon event coordinator expressed joy and amazement at the quality of prototypes developed by the student teams considering the frugal resources at their disposal. “I am very impressed by the integration of disciplines in the teams which produced a healthy mix of ideas. Above all, let me express my gratitude to Oxford University for partnering with the Harare Institute of Technology in such an inspiring endeavour that promises to yield even more avenues of collaboration in future,” he said. 

The hackathon also included workshops conducted by some local and international delegates. It kicked off with some exciting presentations on open science and its benefits as well as the need for responsibility and ethics in research and innovation by Dr Helena Webb and Dr Louise Bezuidenhout from Oxford University. Dr. Andre Maia Chagas from the University of Sussex also gave a presentation on various collaborative initiatives being run in Africa and the world including TRend, GOSH and other open source hardware programmes,  as well as how students could benefit from using them. Dr Ereck Chakauya of NEPAD SANBio facilitated a panel discussion on starting up a business, which was chaired by panelists from Netro Electronics, TechVillage and Elevate Trust. Mr Martin de Heaver from ORBIT RRI based in the United Kingdom gave an enlightening presentation on the benefits of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI); while Mr Jeffrey Barbee, director of Alliance Earth in the US, gave an inspiring presentation and demonstration on how he created a 3D scan and image of a mountain using 12 MegaPixel cameras and a drone.

The LabHack gave participants a chance to explore the exciting world of Open Hardware and equipment design, - the online Open Hardware resources, and to discover how to build laboratory equipment from scratch, while learning about responsible research and innovation, design sustainability and producing ethical laboratory equipment for Africa. The teams had the rare opportunity to learn from each other, and to crowdsource knowledge on building laboratory equipment, while meeting with like-minded peers at this first ever Zimbabwe Lab Hackathon.

The teams also participated in career-development activities such as responsible and ethical research and innovation, user-responsiveness, and establishing innovation start-ups. Talks and workshops on career-building activities to grow a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs were also held during the hackathon.

At the end of the LabHack, representatives from Oxford University expressed their satisfaction with the event as well as their excitement at witnessing the energy brought to the event by the participants. They also expressed their commitment to organize Lab Hackathon 2.0 in partnership with NEPAD SANBio, NBA and the Harare Institute of Technology next year.