Students' 24-hour hackathon to pioneer their invention

Ren Hanzhang
A software, translating sign language, and a wardrobe automatically choosing clothes according to the weather, won prizes in the recent hack.init() youth hackathon in Pudong.
Ren Hanzhang

Ti Gong

Team Hommy win first place in the hack.init() youth hackathon with an innovative cloud-based book  keeping software on a mobile phone.

A software, translating sign language, and a wardrobe automatically choosing clothes according to the weather, were among the prize-winning projects in the hack.init() youth hackathon held last month in Pudong New Area.

Co-hosted by ShanghaiTech University and Techomedia, the first student-run technology-oriented media service in China, and sponsored by renowned Internet firms such as Google and Sogou, saw 300 students aged between 16 and 21-years-old come to the Zhangjiang campus, offering an opportunity to make inventions using top-notch information technologies.

Participants could work on any topic of their choice, and their products were evaluated by 21 judges based on the projects’ applicability, creativity, design, presentation and technical complexity.

The word “hacking” during the event stood for innovation, and the competition was called a hackathon because participants had only 24 hours to finish their projects starting from noon on Saturday.

The time limit and the challenge of burning the midnight oil pushed students to demonstrate their ability to convert creative ideas into applicable outcomes, according to Pan Yuchong, the 18-year-old co-founder of the organizing team.

Students hoping to shake off their sleepiness could take a nap in a rest area or get a coffee from the campus café.

The intense atmosphere helped to bring competitors together, despite their differences in knowledge, culture, nationality, age and school. Sometimes a group contained both high school students and college students.

“In these groups,” said Pan, “the younger students may have more innovative ideas while the college students have more technical knowledge, so the two types of students can cooperate with each other and create better products.”

Many participants had never attended a hackathon before, but hack.init(), just as its javascript name suggests, was designed to initiate youngsters into the world of innovation. Workshops were held to teach participants relevant knowledge, and seven of the workshops took place during the competition so that students could immediately put what they learned into practice.

“We benefited greatly from the workshops,” exclaimed Zheng Tianyu, a student at Shanghai Yan’an High School, after waking up from a long sleep following the hackathon. His group won the DreamT Cloud Services Prize for creating a software that helps middle schoolers and high schoolers learn coding.

“What also helped us were the hardware and software provided by the sponsors,” added Zheng.

Companies may see the hackathon as an opportunity to test their newest products, according to the prospectus of the event. Gadgets that participants could freely incorporate into their projects included: computers, virtual reality helmets, motion sensors, heart rate sensors and Particulate Matter 2.5 sensors.

Sponsors also helped expand the prospect of aspiring inventors and programmers by offering them scholarships, internships and English learning opportunities.

The business incubators, Kungfu Startups, offered free service for the top seven teams in the competition, and the company Innospring provided the top ten teams with workstations for a maximum of three months.

“This is not where your work ends,” said an official from Innospring at the closing ceremony.

The core organizing team of hack.init() consists of seven students with an average age of 17 years, and had planned for the event since January 2017.

“The logistics of the competition can be better planned,” said Zhu Bing, a judge of the event and Director-General of Zhishu Center of Youth Public Service. “But a youth hackathon organized by the youth is intrinsically a valuable idea.”

Ti Gong

Students from Shanghai Yan’an High School proudly show off cheques for scooping the DreamT  Cloud Services Prize for creating a software  to help school children learn coding.



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