Springbox was happy to support the 2017 Texas State University CS + ComDes Smart Cities Hackathon by providing mentors and judges. The two-day event is a great way for students to grow while learning important lessons about teamwork and
What is a “hackathon” you might ask? The word is a portmanteau of the words hack and marathon, in which hack refers to a sense of playful exploration in programming. According to Dave Fontenot, “Hackathons are venues for self-expression and creativity through technology.” In a short period of time, people with technical and design backgrounds form teams to focus on a thematic problem or idea. Teammates collaborate to create a unique solution from scratch. The results often take shape in the form of websites, mobile apps, etc.
What is a “hackathon” you might ask? The word is a portmanteau of the words hack and marathon, in which hack refers to a sense of playful exploration in programming.
This year marked the fourth year of the hackathon created by Grayson Lawrence and Ted Lehr. As Associate Professor of Communication Design at Texas State, Lawrence believes strongly in cross-disciplinary teams. He works hard to organize this opportunity for his students and those from the Computer Science program. It is important for students of these disciplines to learn to collaborate and understand one another better. They could very well be working side-by-side at companies like Springbox in the future.
This year's Smart Cities Hackathon focused on opportunities to improve the City of Austin. The event began with a breakfast kickoff at 9 a.m. on Friday, April 7, and ended around 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 8, 2017, with presentations and awards.
In the kickoff, representatives from the city challenged students with problems that Austin is facing with regards to housing,
Whiteboards and Post-its are non-negotiables
After breakfast and the kickoff, the roughly 50 undergrad and graduate students split off into eight teams. The goal was for each team to include 3 designers and 3 developers. To help in their problem-solving endeavors, each team had an opportunity to integrate Bluetooth beacons or an Amazon Echo into their solutions, if appropriate.
Duncan Robertson, a User Experience and User Interface Designer, and John Vanderveen, a User Experience Designer, accepted the invitation to represent Springbox as both Mentors and Judges. As an alumnus of the Texas State MFA Communication Design program (2013), Duncan loved the opportunity to give back to his alma mater. John, a User Experience designer and former Industrial Designer, provided fresh perspectives and expertise on the intersection of hardware and software. The two brought Springbox's unique, interdisciplinary point of view to their comments and assessments. They mentored the contestants and judged the competition with an understanding of the process a team goes through when tackling such complex problems.Mentors giving sage advice.
On Friday afternoon, after a day full of
On Saturday evening, the two Springbox mentors returned to judge the teams’ results. Starting at 5 o’clock p.m., each team had ten minutes to present their solutions and five additional minutes for questions from their judges and peers.
Though the teams had the opportunity to present blue sky solutions that could have consisted of any media, all teams decided either a website, web app or native Android or iOS app would best help their users. The teams tackled a range of problems from affordable housing and city buses to parking and traffic.
Our judges were happy to see strong empathy and research practices from many of the teams. When two groups took aim at housing, it was refreshing to see different approaches. Team 4 developed an empathetic solution based on their target audiences. They created personas and referred to them when selecting platforms, developing their user stories and making their branding decisions. Another group, Team 6, focused on the same problem but employed user research to find focus. They interviewed a teammate’s sister who recently went through the home search process to get real world user input. Both techniques mirror practices used by Springbox in real-world project research.
Another two groups chose
For the Austin bus system, Team 3, "Green Eggs & RAM," focused on using the provided beacon to track passengers. They wanted to integrate a feature that indicates the capacity of the desired bus to the users of their proposed application. The idea was to let users know the best time to catch a ride. Plus, the city could use the information to design better bus routes and utilizations for buses during peak travel times.
Finally, Team 1, "Hooli," looked at traffic, everyone's favorite Austin problem. To reduce congestion, they would track data to recommend the best commute times. In
When the presentations and judging were complete, only three of the eight teams could take home trophies. The Best of Show prize went to Team 1, "
In addition to these awards, our mentors-turned-judges also tapped Team 7, "John Doe," to receive the Springbox “Digital Partnership Award.” Of all the teams, their work best displayed Springbox’s interdisciplinary approach. Great teamwork and
Springbox presents our very own "Digital Partnership" Award!
Springbox was excited to be invited to help with the hackathon and values giving back to the design community. Providing guidance to local students of User Centered Design,
Want to learn more about our User Experience Design process and team?