Conan O’Brien, Israeli teenagers storm Tower of David in hackathon
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Conan O’Brien, Israeli teenagers storm Tower of David in hackathon

American comedian is honorary hacker at Jerusalem event that aims to find out what makes venues attractive to teenagers

Conan O'Brien, with the Orange T-shirt, meets participants of the Tower of David Museum Hackathon in Jerusalem, Aug. 28, 2017; Elat Lieber, director of the Tower of David Museum, is at the far left (Courtesy: Ricky Rachman)
Conan O'Brien, with the Orange T-shirt, meets participants of the Tower of David Museum Hackathon in Jerusalem, Aug. 28, 2017; Elat Lieber, director of the Tower of David Museum, is at the far left (Courtesy: Ricky Rachman)

US talk show host and comedian Conan O’Brien became an honorary hacker at an event in Jerusalem on Monday that brought together teenagers and mentors working to find ways to make museums and other venues fun and attractive to a younger audience.

O’Brien, who is visiting Israel to film an episode for his “Conan Without Borders” series, told the young attendees about his 11-year old son and how much he would have enjoyed being there too. He also got to delve into 3,000 years of Jerusalem’s history from the top of King Herod’s Phasael Tower overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, together with museum director Eilat Lieber, before heading out to his other activities in the city.

Making sure there are cellphone charging stations at museums, and setting up an app to create a museum tour according to users’ personal interests, are just some of the suggestions teenagers from all over Israel made during the 24-hour hackathon held at the Tower of David Museum in the Old City.

The museum partnered with TOMORROW JLM to produce and host the Youth Creating for Youth Hackathon on Sunday and Monday. The hackathon had teenagers brainstorming and developing solutions for how to improve the experience of young visitors in the city, including at museums, restaurants and city sites, as well as on public transportation.

TOMORROW JLM is a community of entrepreneurs based in Jerusalem that aims to help teenagers become leaders and entrepreneurs in Jerusalem and help boost the city as a center of innovation.

US talkshow host Conan O'Brien became honorary hacker at the Tower of David Museum Hackathon in Jerusalem, Aug. 28, 2017 (Courtesy: Ricky Rachman)
US talkshow host Conan O’Brien became an honorary hacker at the Tower of David Museum Hackathon in Jerusalem, Aug. 28, 2017 (Courtesy: Ricky Rachman)

During the hackathon, the teenagers brainstormed and coded together with a team of designers, entrepreneurs, developers, and marketers who joined forces from all over Israel to develop new and interactive solutions to enhance the young visitor’s experience. They planned and plotted and plugged in computers everywhere, students and mentors and organizers wearing different kinds of T-shirts to be easily identified.

“We have been trying for years to get to the right technologies and to find the right way to make it cool and exciting” so that the museum will attract a young audience, Lieber told the participants.

The idea was to present innovative and engaging ways to bring the stories, places and people of Jerusalem to life, answering questions like what creates a dynamic and unique experience, and what makes a venue memorable.

The charging stations team — which won the first prize at the event — said that what most people experience is a shortage of battery life, especially when they are out and about, traveling and photographing. The team came up with the idea of creating an app that shows users the location of the nearest chargers and plugs that can be used. The app would encourage more venues to install charging stations and hopefully lead them to more ads and customers.

Another app idea was to help teenagers connect with events and friends that suit their interests.

Part of the two-day event also included a reverse mentoring process, in which young participants got the chance to make their suggestions and ideas to a select group of Jerusalem municipality officials, as well as executives and directors from the world of culture and tourism, keen to learn what grabs the fancy of teenagers.

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