NYUAD Hackathon for Social Good highlights

The potential of the field of quantum computing is so huge that everyone in the field cannot wait for all the promises that the field holds to become a reality. This motivates the question, wha can we do to accelerate the pace of innovation in the field? The first step is to bring as many brilliant people into the field as possible, so that the most challenging problems of the field have the best people working on them.

A key challenge in this regard is, ‘How do you give the most brilliant minds a flavor of the field while conveying the excitement around the challenges of the field, so they can commit?’. One strategy that seems to be working quite well is, quantum computing hackathons! These are the events that attract experts from not just quantum computing but also from the fields that quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize. The experts spend a few days working on some of the most challenging problems and try to come up with innovative solutions. With a confluence of ideas from disparate disciplines, passionate people teaching each other the most relevant ideas of their respective fields, the atmosphere is electrifying.

We want to share an experience from one such hackathon at New York University in Abu Dhabi. Jointly sponsored by qBraid and AWS , ‘Quantum Computing hackathon for Social Good’ was first of its kind hackathon in the middle east.

About the hackathon

The NYUAD Hackathon for Social Good is a hackathon that has been running for a decade.

And to celebrate its ten year anniversary the organizers decided to go quantum! The hackathon has a rich history of attracting some of the most brilliant minds from across the world. This year, former QC hackathon winners, researchers, and more than 160 participants from 57 different
countries arrived at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus to develop unique solutions to social problems
using quantum computers.

Describing one of the main goals for the hackathon, Founder and Chair of the NYUAD Hackathon for Social Good, professor Sana Odeh says: “The NYUAD hackathon is designed to empower a new generation of computer scientists with the necessary collaborative, cross-border skills to advance quantum computing capabilities here in Abu Dhabi and ultimately to make a positive impact on our society.” Leading up to the hackathon the quantum experts and the domain experts held many workshops for the student hackers many of whom were introduced to quantum computing for the first time.

Supporting the hackathon on qBraid Lab:

For hackathons, where saving time and avoiding pesky bugs is paramount, qBraid’s automated quantum coding environment installation and setup is reputed as a natural choice in supporting NYUAD. Further, qBraid’s experience with other quantum hackathons, including MIT’s iQuHack and Stanford x Yale’s QCHack, made qBraid uniquely qualified in advising the NYUAD team in organizing their first quantum hackathon. 

qBraid CLI: a new way to access quantum computers

While most quantum computing services require setting up storage, identity, and security in a cloud environment, qBraid users at the NYUAD Hackathon used the qBraid CLI’s new feature which allows for effortless connection to quantum hardware through Amazon Braket, including IonQ, Rigetti, and Oxford Quantum Circuits, on qBraid Lab (a cloud based Jupyter IDE). By typing `qbraid account enable amazon_braket`in their qBraid Lab terminal, participants set up cloud resources instantaneously, saving hours of valuable setup time during the hacking process.

Challenge and Teams:

The challenge required the participants to create a program that applies one or more quantum algorithms to a social good problem of their choice. The teams consisted of top mentors from universities including MIT and UC Berkeley working together with elite hackers from undergraduate, masters, and graduate STEM programs from the Middle East. The students brought their own domain expertise to their respective teams developing social good solutions to transportation, healthcare, cryptography, and more using QC. All the teams presented their solutions with 5 minute presentations as well as the coding repository. The presentations were met with much fanfare and excitement as it was streamed to a global audience and covered in national news outlets such as Abu Dhabi TV.
NYUAD Affiliated Faculty and Clinical Professor of Computer Science Sana Odeh, who organized the event, commented: “I’m proud and humbled by the efforts of these talented students who have contributed some truly original ideas that have the potential to change the world.” In total, the teams ran over ~500 quantum tasks and 80k quantum experiments on different quantum processors through Amazon Braket in 36 hours using qBraid’s new feature of automating cloud resource creation.


Challenge winners

The first place team, whose open source project optimizes energy distribution, impressed the judges in its thoroughness and was awarded internship opportunities at G42, an artificial intelligence and cloud computing company from Abu Dhabi. We saw incredibly creative ways to use Amazon Braket and the devices such as random number generation on simulators using random circuits using IonQ as well as qubit mapping considerations when running circuits submitted via a front end interface. For many of the hackers, this hackathon was their first exposure to quantum computing; however, with plenty of support from mentors, unquenching curiosity, and one week of learning how to use Amazon Braket on qBraid hackers defied expectations and grasped quantum computing concepts at an insurmountable rate.

1st Place Qudra | قدرة
Focus on Environment (Climate)

Mentors Akash Kant, Shatanu Jha, and hackers Asil Qraini, Fouad Afiouni, Gargi Chandrakar, Nurgazy Seidaliev, Sahar Ben Rached, Salem Al Haddad, SarthakPrasad malla, determined how to best distribute renewable energy in power grids for enhancing energy security and sustainability. The team utilized qBraid’s Lab environment and access to D-Wave QPUs through Amazon Braket to solve a QUBO problem.

2nd Place qVerified | كيو فيريفاي

Focus on Research and Development

Mentors Abdelkhalik Aljuneidi and Lukas Burgholzer and their team of hackers Geon Tack Lee, Iheb Nassim Aouadj, Omar AlRemeithi, Shahad Fikri, Silvey Yu, Wen Rahme, Elijah Whittle, andnGayatri Tyagi used the open-source MQT QCEC tool to verify that quantum circuits have been correctly compiled.

2nd Place QS Pirates | قراصنة الاستشعار الكمي
Focus on Healthcare

Mentors Nouhaila Innan and Victory Omole worked with their team of Ashith Farhan, Chin-Ling Hou, Dania Herzalla, Jakub Nowak, Jawaher Alshamsi, MD Sakibul Islam, Pengyu Wang, Zayd Maradni developed a quantum sensor simulator for virus detection. Using covid-19 RNA samples on simulated NV center diamonds, positive with covid exhibit a longer relaxation time compared to samples without covid.

3rd Place MedQure | مدكيور
Focus on Science (AI, cryptography, security, physics, biochemistry, math and CS algorithms)

Mentors Mohamed Yassine Ferjani, Ricky Young and hackers Boudaoud Khaled Afif, Lina Mezdour, Mohammed Nassar, Narimane Hennouni, Nour El Hassane, Parv Agarwal, Samyam Lamichhane, Sima Saboh used bling quantum computing to allow a client with limited computational ability to securely classify sensitive healthcare data on an untrusted cloud based quantum computer.

3rd Place Mediqal | فريق Mediqal
Focus on Logistics Optimization

Mentors Alex Degner, Mohammad Aamir Sohail, Paweł Gora, and hackers Chaimae Abouzahir,Fatima Al Zahraa Maarouf, Hamza Boudouche, Malak Mansour, Mariam Alsafi,
Sashank Neupane, Teague Tomesh, Tasnim Ahmed, Tiemar Semere Berhe, Yaphet Elias Weldegebriel, Ziad Mohamed Abdelfattah Hassan created a route optimizer for mobile medical services.


NYUAD’s Hackathon for Social Good was the catalyst for quantum computing activities in the Middle East and qBraid is excited to represent NYUAD at the now annual quantum computing hackathon. As Professor Sana Odeh exclaims, “the hackathon ends up being a 3-day intense mini master program for students and without qBraid’s technology and depth in resources the
whole event would have been impossible”. As qBraid establishes their presence in the region, they takeaway immense learnings from the NYUAD hackathon as Kanav Setia, CEO of qBraid
mentions, “supporting the NYUAD hackathon on qBraid together with AWS was a great
experience for us. It gave us an amazing opportunity to learn how the first time learners interact with various quantum computing tools. This will allow us to keep making our platform better.Another crucial learning experience for us was to realize that, given proper tools, it is in fact possible for people to go from not knowing anything about quantum computing to coming up with brilliant quantum solutions for challenging problems within a matter of days.”

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