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Hackathon Happiness for PhD Students

Our PhD students from the Centre for Doctoral Training in Cloud Computing for Big Data formed a winning partnership, to win a national hackathon organised by the Royal Society.

‌Our Cloud Computing for Big Data PhD students were successful in creating the winning idea, at a national hackathon. The event, Hacking Happiness, focused on digital interventions linked to happiness.  It was organised by the Royal Society and hosted by the Digital Catapult and took place over two days in central London. The students teamed up with people from Central St Martins and Brighton University, to create a winning team. 

Alex Brown, Thomas Cooper, Peter Michalak and Jonathan Law all participated, as part of our activities to involve students in public engagement and industry led events.
We ask our students to report back, Jonathan Law talks us through the event and shares his experiences.

"We arrived at the Catapult on the Monday evening for networking and drinks with the other hackers, from industry and other institutions. There was an introduction and a couple of keynotes, from George MacKerron (of Mappiness, one of the data providers) and David Fearne (Arrow). Once we were suitably inspired, we had some drinks and made our pitch. Tom Inspired a few people to join us, two designers GG and Al from Central St Martins and Claudia, a Lecturer from Brighton University. 

Student hackathon pitchstudents discussing work at hackathon

The next day started with a keynote from Marcus du Sautoy, and then it was time to start. Our idea was to create a routing app using the supplied data
* Mappiness: User reported happiness by location
* London Air: Pollution data in London
* Crime Data: Street level crime data
* Google Maps API: Points of interest, cafes, restaurants, parks, photo opportunities

The plan is to use all this data to create a route (possibly from home to work) which maximises the happiness of the user. In order to measure the happiness, we surveyed the user after their journey and attempted to get an objective measure using a galvanic skin response sensor and a heart rate sensor. We then pitched the idea to the panel consisting of:

Chair of Judging Panel:Sabine Hauert‌
Dr Tom Stepleton: Google DeepMind
Prof Karen Cham: Digital Catapult Brighton
Christopher Lorenzo: Soma Analytics

Then we won! I found it to be a very inspiring couple of days!

glass hackathon trophypicture of winning hackathon team

PhD student Peter Michalak added:

"I enjoyed the event a lot and it shows how valuable it is when expertise from different fields (UI interaction & design, stats, CS, IoT) come together" 

Our CDT aims to bring together students from a mix of disciplines and apply their expertise to a variety of areas. We're proud to see that this collaborative experience has afforded them the opportunity to become involved in successful external events.
For more information on the event, see the Royal Society's blog: 

Photo credit: @digicatapult on Twitter and Digital Catpult 

students pitch their idea on stage at hackathon
PhD students at the prize giving ceremony
students pitch their ideas at the Digital Catapult

published on: 26 January 2017