Ashesi Design Lab, the design thinking and innovative solutions hub of the prestigious Ashesi University organized the Future Learning Hackathon 2 of 3 to invite brilliant ideas and innovative solutions to enhance the students’ ‘campus life’ even whilst they study from home.
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic affected life in all circles, especially that of students and academic institutions by leading to the temporary closure of academic institutions. However, for several months now in Ghana and the world over, the educational system has since been disrupted with the closure of school campuses due to the pandemic. Most universities had to move their classes online providing a varying level of engagement with their students in the online format. For many students, being home is complicated; the life at home and that on campus are worlds apart. With another academic year drawing close in September, and the dread of reopening schools online, students wonder how they are going to experience ‘campus life’ from the comfort of their homes. This was the rationale behind the Future Learning Virtual Hackathon 2 of 3 – to provide an opportunity for this challenge to be addressed with ingenious solutions incorporating the use of Design thinking.
The Ashesi Design lab in partnership with lead sponsor Hatchery Positivo BGH, brought together enthusiasts from different academic disciplines in 17 groups (minimum of 3 individuals to a maximum of 5) to partake in the virtual competition. About 26% of the participants in this version of the series of hackathons were female.
Process and Judging
17 teams after the close of applications had registered for the hackathon by 8th August 2020. These teams were engaged, after registration and selection, in a virtual orientation and preparation session by the organizers. This continued with a Design Thinking session led by Eugene Eluerkeh (who is he?) after which mentors assigned to various teams. The teams under the guidance and mentorship of their mentors found ways to fine-tune ideas and work on their projects and solutions in preparation towards the big day, Pitch Sessions. Pitch Sessions on the 14th of August was the time assigned for each and every team to present their unique solution to a judging panel.
The Pitch Session was held with the teams presenting their solutions to a judging panel via Zoom. The first session had a total of 8 teams present to 5 judges with the second session having 9 teams present to a panel of 5 judges. All the solutions and ideas by each and every team were carefully evaluated and critiqued by the judging panel on basis of creativity, innovation, and feasibility. Mr Richard Osei-Anim, one of the judges, stated that he looked forward to a team that would present a decent solution or idea that could be scaled up.
After 3 intense hours of display of prowess in ingenuity and careful deliberations all on tackling the challenge of enhancing ‘campus life’ against a digital and virtual divide, the judges announced three teams as winners based on the clarity presentation, scalability of their solution, and overall outlook.
The judging panel comprised of innovators and experts in various fields namely: Joseph Akayesi, Felix Pobee, Blessed S. Agyeman, Abena Engmann, Abel Ohene Acquaye, Richard Osei-Anim, Daniel Kwasi Yeboah-Kordieh, Samuel Nkoom Amoah, John Eyo, and Akua Ampah.
The winning solution at the end of Future Learning Virtual Hackathon 2 of 3 was a web application that had a feel of campus life by making users experience lecturer-student interactions while having a feel of activities and services on campus from the comfort of the user’s home. The winning teams who produced winning solutions were: SUNTAA (winning team), AWESOME THINKERS NETWORK (1st Runners Up), and EXCELSIOR (2nd Runners Up)
The three (3) winning teams received cash prizes of GHS 1400, GHS 1000, and GHS 600 respectively with mentorship and advisory support to scale up their ideas to market, and gift vouchers from Feenix and Doughman foods as well as the opportunity to network
Amidst the challenges of organizing and running a virtual hackathon, the Future Learning Hackathon 2 of 3 was a great success and a noteworthy improvement to the previous edition. Having all these feasible, scalable, and innovative ideas see the light of day and go to enhance the quality of life of students during a virtual period of schooling is a mark to validate the success of the hackathon. We cannot wait for the final hackathon of this hackathon series.
Appreciation goes out to all sponsors and partners: Hatcthery Positivo BGH, Feenix, Doughman Foods, Veggies and Grills restaurant; and media partners: Business 24 E-newspaper, Ghana Web and Africa Digital Festival. As well, heartfelt gratitude to all judges, mentors, participants, and organizing team members for the hard work, dedication and support throughout the period of implementation, planning, and execution.