Smart Data Hack – Paola Tamma

Smart Data Hack is an event run by the School of Informatics throughout Innovative Learning Week. At first, sitting amongst a herd of IT students I felt like a fish out of water. But I like reviewing for exactly this reason: it draws you into places and among people you would not otherwise encounter. When the other students started chatting about their weekends and essay reading the “out-of-place” sign on my forehead faded away.

This week-long competition gives students the opportunity to team up and use data made especially available from the City Council, private businesses and non-profits such as Skyscanner, Allis, Greener Leith and Insight Arcade to develop IT products (websites, apps for iPhones and Androids, etc.) designed to respond the unserviced community needs.

On Monday, I tried to get there prepared. Ewan Klein, the organiser, told me his desired outcomes for the event: bringing together fresh ideas, qualified university staff able to give them definition, and third parties gaining youthful perspectives on how to tackle needs and designing solutions in exchange of sharing their data. Students will learn technical skills and experience that looks good on a CV , as well as the possibility of being talent-scouted, and potentially winning a Kindle Fire or a Nexus7.

On Wednesday, teams showcased their projects. Many things mattered in determining my personal favourites, from the students’ keenness to their genuine interest in designing useful products, to the effectiveness of their presentation. I appreciated team INF-YT’s objective of redesigning MyEd, the University portal. They spotted a need for improvement and tried to fill that need, fair play to them. It would certainly have an impact on the student community, and they seemed determined to go through with it beyond the competition. I hope they do.

Many ideas revolved around travelling: within that category, I appreciated Luke McCauley’s Rendezvous,  helping scattered friends and families to get together at the cheapest price, no matter where – a sort of minimum common denominator for international meet ups. Edicycle, a website designed for cyclists, rates and maps potential cycling routes by the likelihood of accidents (calculated via City Council historic data) was another great output from the Smart Data Hack. I could list many more, but these are the ones that made me think “if this really existed, I would add it to my bookmarks bar”.

Winners will be announced at the Informatics ILW Closing Ceremony on Friday.

I certainly wasn’t the most qualified person to talk about this event. Nonetheless, I appreciated the opportunity taken by students to dive into real-world needs, and the support given by the University. Events like this enable students to begin imagining their future beyond graduation- and lose the sensation of feeling unequipped as a fish out of water in the ‘real world’.

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