My Surrey Spark Hackathon

Hi everyone,

It has been a while since I last updated you on my life as a student at the University of Surrey. I can list a variety of reasons as to why this has been the case such as my end-of-year exams; graduation preparations, moving out of halls, summer part-time job hunt etcetera. However, in the next couple of blog posts, I have decided to let you into the activities I have been taking part in during my hiatus, starting with my participation in the three-day MySurrey Spark Hackathon hosted by the  University of Surrey’s Student Enterprise team.

At the University of Surrey, the Student Enterprise team offers practical business support to entrepreneurial students who aspire to run their own enterprises. They can equip students with the training, mentoring office space and funding opportunities needed to help them get their idea up and running.  Their aim is to give all students the chance to explore innovative ideas and to develop business skills whilst developing skills to use in a future career. They have mentors who are local business professionals, passionate about their specialist area. During the hackathon, we got the opportunity to learn from business masterclasses hosted by the Student Enterprise team as well as the opportunity to engage in spotlight classes from business experts, all designed to develop our entrepreneurial spirit.

The theme of the 2022 Hackathon17 was the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • #2 – Zero Hunger
  • #3 – Good Health and Well-being

The SDGs (also known as the Global Goals) were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Adopting goals 2 and 3 for the hackathon ensured we were geared to solve real-world problems and develop a deeper understanding of the key components of sustainability – social, economic and environmental.

There was food provided each day of the hackathon, with a BBQ by the lake on our first day. Yakult was one of the sponsors of the event and provided their probiotic drinks every afternoon. Yakult is known to improve digestion and build immunity.

The first day consisted of the team building and the ideation day. We were split into teams where we got to meet new people and forge new friendships (or co-founderships). It was then that we discovered that we all came from a range of disciplines and levels across the university. From my team alone, we had a team member from the Law department, graduate-level School of Biosciences, graduate-level Artificial Intelligence, Chemistry and myself from the Economics and Mathematics department; and we were all from different parts of the world, a truly diverse bunch indeed. We selected our problem statements which revolved around SDGs #2 and #3 and began thinking of ideas for a campaign, service or product to solve the problems. To help develop our pitches we were introduced to the ‘lean (green) canvas’. This is a type of planning method which helps you deconstruct any business plan to get to the heart of your idea.

The second day involved different spotlights from business owners and masterclasses from the Surrey Business School. We also began developing our idea by working alongside a business mentor and a sustainability mentor to help us prepare our pitch deck. As a little insight into our group project, we were tasked with designing a social, educational and fun gardening space.

The final day was the pitch presentation. We had 3 judges: Prof. Esat, the Associate Dean in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences; Prof. Cohen, the Associate Professor in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Surrey and Mr McCallan, the Organiser of Zero Carbon Guildford. We were competing for a top prize of £1000 cash plus £500 seed funding. The Naked Pharmacy Guildford was also offering a £1000 funded internship this summer! The projects were engaging and it was so inspiring to hear what the other teams had developed in the 3 days.

In the end, our group walked away with the runner’s up prize for our pitch and the opportunity to develop it further should we choose to.

That is all for now folks,