Heng Sokly, a developer who recently joined the iLab team, had never flown in a plane before, and was headed to Sri Lanka to experience her first EpiHack.

“I was nervous to take this first trip alone, and unfortunately once I landed, the airline lost my baggage. However, I borrowed a shirt from another female EpiHack participant and over the course of the event we developed a close relationship.”

“I also found the EpiHack organizers and other local participants were very helpful in assisting me in getting settled in, including helping me until I received my bags.”

“As for the event, I found it interesting to learn about the current system of technology that has been used in Sri Lanka and to learn about the problems that we could help address.”

“The theme of the event was Dengue Fever. During the first day of the event, I was a little lost with the language. The local people spoke so fast and I was not familiar with the tonation. However by the second day onward, I felt more comfortable and I found myself getting used to the tonation and the speech became easier to process.”

“The biggest challenge, however, was working as group to get a prototype done before the closing of the 5-day event.”

“What I enjoyed the most was the field trip. I found it very fascinating. We got to meet with the local people and learn about their needs directly.”

“The trip was a great experience which changed me. I’ve gained new inspiration from the way the group worked together during the event. Participants collaborated extremely fast and used critical thinking skills. I feel like I am not quite at that rapid level yet, but I will be. And I also realized that I need to be better prepared when traveling if an airline ever loses my bags again.”

EpiHacks are collaborative week-long events that bring together public health officials, epidemiologists, and technologists to to create digital solutions for improved disease surveillance. Since 2013 EpiHacks have been held in countries around the world including Tanzania, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.