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HKBU organises virtual competition to connect global youth

Image Credits: HKBU, Press Release

Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) hosted its first Virtual Hack and Design Challenge from 24 to 26 April 2020. While social distancing prevails in different parts of the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the online event brought together more than 110 university students from 16 countries and regions.

Through learning and applying emerging skills related to design thinking, mobile application development, and digital media and communication in 48 hours, the participants developed a series of innovative online project ideas that address the COVID-19 challenge.

The competition was organised by HKBU’s Department of Computer Science, School of Communication and Centre for Innovative Service-Learning in collaboration with the University of Perugia in Italy and the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan.

University students from 16 countries and regions in different time zones, namely mainland China, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, Romania, South Korea, and Taiwan, were divided into 17 teams.

With the overall aim of integrating global wisdom and coming up with innovative ideas for fighting the pandemic, they worked together to design solutions and innovative plans under the themes of “During COVID-19”, “After COVID-19” and the “Next pandemic”.

During the competition, participating teams were provided with a wide range of open online training workshops, and they were supported by 38 mentors from different professional fields.

Interactive discussions across different regions and time zones between team members were conducted using video conferencing software.

The teams also made use of the public databases provided by international organisations such as the World Health Organisation, World Trade Organisation, and the European Union, as well as the HKSAR Government and the HKBU Library, to collect data for their projects.

There were ten awards in the competition. The championship title and the “Best AI and Digital Media Innovative Award” went to a team comprising six students from HKBU, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, National Cheng Kung University and Kyoto University.

Their winning idea focused on developing a mobile app called “Shield” which uses GPS satellite positioning, Bluetooth technology, real-time data analysis, and heat maps to provide users with social distancing indicators and travel risk levels.

The app also comes with an artificial intelligence-enabled chatbot function that can provide users with a safe route to their destination that avoids high-risk areas.

A member of the winning team and a master’s student from HKBU’s Science in Advanced Information Systems programme found that all participants were surprisingly engaged even though this virtual hackathon was conducted online.

He stated, “Being able to work with other team members closely for 48 hours in such a special but testing period allowed me to breakdown geographical boundaries and feel the warmth brought by my peers.”

One of the key organising committee members and a Lecturer of the Department of Computer Science at HKBU was impressed by the enthusiastic response from the participants.

She stated that she believes the results show that creativity will not be hindered by geographical distance in the virtual world. The participating teams not only made use of global wisdom to empower the community, but they also embraced new teaching and learning opportunities.

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