Hackathon as a pedagogical tool
In order to train students in the “International Engineer” program, UTSEUS innovated by introducing the methodology of Hackathon, an excellent tool for new innovative processes, which is now acclaimed by pioneer hakerspaces and companies in Shanghai.
On December 2-3, 2016, a hackathon was organized for the first time at UTSEUS within the course ‘Introduction to Data Science and Machine Learning’ in the ‘International Engineering’ program.
After delivering 40 hours of lectures, Fabien Pfaender, researcher at ComplexCity, Philippe XU, researcher at UTC’s Heudiasyc Laboratory, mentored their students during an innovative type of evaluation: a hackathon. By means of the urban data sets from ComlexCity, the students were able to develop new innovative concepts during 30 hours, using Machine learning methodologies, then champion an entrepreneurial project concerning an innovative application.
After a short briefing session by the program manager and the lecturers, the students were given 6 hours to put together their ideas for innovative applications or “apps”.
Then, the students organized themselves in 3 teams, each supporting one of the ideas. Each group then had to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of their “app”, and then to provide a proof of concept: analysis of raw data, and to draw useful information from the data for their “app” … and finally to put together a first prototype. As Philippe Xu notes, “None of these students came from a Computing science major and were therefore unfamiliar with programming techniques. But we provided the necessary, basic information and know-how for this during the examination. But above all other considerations, the students proved themselves highly motivated. Each group managed to demonstrate at least one relevant finding at the end of the hackathon, and this was the primary objective set by the examiners. The students were able to realize that data sciences constituted an accessible area of knowledge and know-how but that the most important factor, is to demonstrate imagination in possible applications.”
Three projects were finally presented: one to help to find the ideal locations to open a restaurant, the second one to find itineraries for urban activities according to the profiles of the user, and the third one to put through sportsmen and locations for sport practice.