Eighty college students from Argentina, Canada, China, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and the United States came together in Tel Aviv during January session break for another edition of TAVtech Ventures, a 4.5-week coding and entrepreneurship fellowship.

The students learn high-demand coding skills in hot areas such as artificial intelligence, big data, cybersecurity and data science, while interacting with leading players in Israel’s startup ecosystem including Israel Innovation Authority CEO Aharon Aharon and Israel Cleantech Ventures Partner Jack Levy.

The nonprofit fellowship program (motto: “Code for the Planet”), founded two years ago by students from NYU and Harvard, places an emphasis on social impact. It concludes with TAVhacks, a three-day hackathon where the students team up and combine the technical skills and information acquired over the previous four weeks to create projects (and possibly startups) with a meaningful social impact.

This year, 17 teams of young technologists competed in the first round of the hackathon. Five advanced to the final round to compete for three awards — The Changemaker, Tech Savvy and Audience Favorite – determined by judges including Jimmy Levy (Al Bawader Capital and Galil Software), Rina Shainski (Duality Technologies), Nir Kouris (NK- Innovation Strategy Marketing), Daniel Ben Yehuda (Fintech Venture Builder) and Eyal Toledano (Zebra Medical Vision).

Participants in the 2018 TAVhacks social-impact hackathon for foreign college students in Tel Aviv. Photo by Shreya Raghunandan

The Changemaker award went to a team that proposed a website and browser extension where users create profiles indicating their favorite brands and charitable causes, to facilitate the donation of a portion of sales profits at checkout.

The Tech Savvy award went to a team proposing a “‘next-generation identity solution” giving marginalized or displaced children under five access to a digital identity infrastructure.

The Audience Favorite award was won by FaceReality, a web application that uses image-to-image translation with conditional adversarial networks to transform police sketches of suspect’s faces to photos.