Virtual hackathon helps students to stay connected and develop new skillsDeakin news
With much of the world plugged into a remote lifestyle at the moment, Deakin’s School of Information Technology saw an opportunity to engage students by hosting a virtual hackathon with the theme ‘Hack from Home: Productivity in Isolation’.
The hackathon challenged students to apply their knowledge, creativity and skills towards solving a problem – in this case the creation of a productivity tool - by leveraging technology to develop a viable, real-world solution.
The School of IT’s virtual hackathon ran for just under 24 hours, starting at 5pm on 17 April and ending at 3:30 pm the next day, with 28 undergraduate students competing remotely in seven teams of four. Each team had to develop a prototype productivity tool in response to the current challenge of living and working remotely. School of IT academic and professional staff acted as team mentors, judges, and administrators.
As well as providing an engaging and interactive activity for students currently studying online, the aim of the event was to foster a mindset of innovation and entrepreneurship. The hackathon format was chosen for its effectiveness as a way to challenge, upskill, and teach students new techniques – such as Design Thinking – that will be useful in their university studies and beyond.
Peter Eklund is Associate Head of School (Development) and Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Deakin’s School of IT.
‘Our objective in providing tech challenges as part of Deakin’s extracurricular student activities is to instil innovation and entrepreneurial thinking among our students,’ Professor Eklund explains.
‘It’s great to develop technical expertise in our students as part of their normal studies, but it’s even better when we can encourage them to work together to respond to societal challenges through design thinking.’
Another aim of the hackathon was to provide participating students with a virtual social setting where they could experience firsthand collaborating while working remotely, as well as engage with academic and professional staff from the school.
While the requirement for the hackathon teams was to produce a low-fidelity prototype – wireframe and storyboard – of their productivity tool, teams were also encouraged to create a high-fidelity prototype – a challenge some took up.
Organisers said the winning team ‘Up&Running’ won with a motivation tool that develops productivity task plans and rewards the user when tasks are accomplished.
Professor Robin Doss is Deputy Head of Deakin’s School of IT and was one of the hackathon judges.
‘The quality of the innovations put forward certainly demonstrated a high-level of teamwork, out- of-the-box thinking and a strong desire from the teams to create social impact through technology,’ Professor Doss says.
‘Beyond the ideas themselves, the hackathon provided a focussed opportunity for students to look at technology through a social lens and them embracing that challenge is the real success story here.’
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