Words by Ada
Posted 3 months ago

Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, have once again partnered with Deloitte to run a three-day hackathon for Ada students.

The challenge was set by the Deloitte IoT team, an innovation function specialising in the rapid prototyping of use cases for new technologies. The team tasked the students with creating a personal voice assistant that could be used to improve the student experience whilst at Ada, with a particular emphasis on either learning, wellbeing, recruitment or accessibility.

This was the second annual event held for the students, with last year’s cohort utilising some technology provided by one of Deloitte’s global alliance partners, PTC, to create a “connected college” prototype.

Deloitte and Ada started the hackathon with a series of educational seminars on topics including: voice user interfaces, user experience design, building an Amazon Alexa Skill, GDPR and privacy, and project management skills. In addition, Laura North from Speaking Out continued her fantastic work developing the students’ public speaking skills to ensure they were well prepared to deliver their pitch.

It was a tough challenge – voice technology is still in its infancy and market penetration of dedicated devices is low, with voice assisted speakers being owned by under 5% of smartphone users in Europe (Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2017). Students had to be creative and were encouraged to think of problems where the use of voice assistants made sense in the context of the where the users would be and what other activities they might be doing.

Twelve teams of students worked diligently over the three days to create some amazing technical demonstrations that were presented in a “science fair” set-up along with roadmaps for the future of their concept, commercial plans and even marketing videos. Three finalists were chosen to pitch before the judges and wider audience, with the winning idea, “Echo Therapy” utilising voice to provide students with mental health support. The team developed a skill that enables access to mental health services and provided reminders of positive and negative behaviours in a user’s “diary”. The team demonstrated a nuanced understanding of how the skill is complementary to professional healthcare services but not a replacement.

“We were blown away with the technical acumen last year, so being able to see the progress between that first cohort and this year’s cohort is even more impressive – not only do these young people have a great appetite for getting stuck in with new technologies and coding languages they’ve never seen before, they can interview users, concise explain business models and shape visions for the future. I already excited to work out what challenge we can pose next year!” Thomas Watling from the Deloitte IoT team.

Steve, Computer Science teacher at Ada: “Once again, The Deloitte team have thrown their full weight behind our IoT hackathon challenge, and this year our learners have surpassed all previous efforts. Ensuring our learners experience exciting, forward-thinking industry challenges is key for us at Ada. We thank Deloitte for all their efforts this year and look forward to next year’s cohort producing even better results!”

The Deloitte Team (pictured above) who delivered and judged the Hackathon;
L-R: Thomas Watling, Tanisha Dewakalu, Paul Lee, Aashish Upmanyu, Mark Dalton, Lynn Hamadallah, Patrick Parfrey, Ben Steward.

Authored by Founding Partner, Deloitte

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