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Updated: 21 April 2021

HKBU virtual hackathon connects global youth under "new normal"

Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) hosted the Global Virtual Hackathon 2021 from 7 to 9 April. The competition aimed to address the sustainability of the "new normal" under the COVID-19 pandemic, and it brought together around 90 university students from 16 countries and cities who then devised innovative plans and creative solutions to the associated issues in 48 hours.

With the theme "Hack for a Sustainable New Normal", the competition was organised for the second year in a row by the Department of Computer Science, School of Communication, Centre for Innovative Service-Learning and Office of Student Affairs at HKBU in collaboration with West Virginia University in the US, Ritsumeikan University in Japan and the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan.

University students from 16 countries and cities, including Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Taiwan and the UK, were divided into 16 teams, with each team comprising students with diverse cultural and academic backgrounds. They then worked together to design solutions that addressed the four sustainable development goals of the United Nations, namely "quality education", "good health and well-being", "sustainable cities and communities", and "responsible consumption and production".

During the competition, participating teams were provided with a wide range of online training workshops, and they were supported by 19 mentors from different professional fields. Interactive discussions across different regions and time zones between team members were conducted using video conferencing software. The teams created online surveys, and interviewed experts or target audiences prior to developing their creative solutions. Their ideas were then peer-reviewed and presented to judges via a three-minute video.

The championship title and the Best Team Work Award went to the team that came up with the idea of creating an online platform called "Quokkonnect". It aims to help children overcome physical boundaries and make friends with people from different regions, and it also provides them with opportunities to work on projects, including those focused on sustainable development. The team hopes to collaborate with non-governmental organisations and enhance children's mental health and learning abilities through the platform.

The first runner-up prize was awarded to a team that came up with the idea of developing a mobile app to promote sustainable diets. The second runner-up team's proposal focused on creating a mobile app called "Skillshack" that aims to promote peer teaching and skill sharing.

Joanne Luo Yi, one of the team members and a first-year student from the Bachelor of Business Administration programme at HKBU, said that the Hackathon gave her an opportunity to brainstorm ideas that could bring positive changes to society. "It was a memorable experience working with students from different regions. I have become more proactive in terms of teamwork, and I'm also more self-motivated when it comes to acquiring new knowledge," she said.

Apart from receiving a cash prize, students from the top winning teams will be eligible for scholarship opportunities offered by HKBU and West Virginia University.

Dr Albert Chau, Vice-President (Teaching and Learning) of HKBU, said at the opening session that the participants are indeed some of the most dedicated young minds from all over the world, and they put their knowledge and ideas together to create projects that can have a positive impact on the world. "I feel very privileged that HKBU and our students are part of this international initiative. This hackathon fully encapsulates HKBU's DNA: Caring, Creative, and Global," he said.

Dr Kristen Li, a member of the organising committee of the competition and a lecturer of the Department of Computer Science at HKBU, said: "The first virtual hackathon last year received an overwhelming response. We hope that we can keep on engaging with students from around the world, as we want to encourage them to overcome the language barriers and time differences that exist between regions. The participants showcased their energy and creative minds in the competition, as well as their eagerness to embrace learning opportunities under the 'new normal'."

Please click here for more information about the Global Virtual Hackathon 2021.

Students from Hong Kong, Germany, Italy and India win the competition with their concept of an online platform called "Quokkonnect", which aims to connect children around the world.

Graphical concept of "Quokkonnect"

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